One hundred sixty-five bicyclists took to the streets of Ventura County to do a good deed by supporting the military, veterans and their families during the American Red Cross of Ventura County’s third Operation: Ride for the Red event.

The ride included three separate routes throughout the county, comprising 30, 61 and 99 miles with rest stops every 10 miles. Riders raised a total of $29,847 to support the Red Cross’ Service to Armed Forces Program and more than 80 volunteers lent a helping hand to make the ride a success. Operation: Ride for the Red was created in 2014 by local volunteers and neighbors Kevin Delson, Ken Bauer and Diane Krehbiel-Delson.

“We all have a passion for the armed forces and cycling, and that’s why all the military and veteran riders get to ride for free in our event,” says Krehbiel-Delson. “My husband, Kevin, has ridden across the country and Ken sits on the board for the Red Cross, so we thought the ride would be a great way to give back to SAF.”

According to the Red Cross, since 9/11, the nonprofit has served more than 1 million military families. The Red Cross is also the only military service organization that supports military families from the day they enlist through their time as a veteran.

Fifty-five of those participating bicyclists who got to ride for free were veterans, including Barry Cole, Ken Exum, Bruce Newman and Ray Tschaeche. Cole was an Army troop truck driver during the Vietnam era between 1968 to 1970 and was stationed in St. Louis and Sacramento. It was his first time participating in the event.

“When I was in the service, the general feeling was not positive toward the military,” says Cole, 71, of Ventura. “Now it’s changed and being able to support the military population is a good thing to do. I wanted to be a part of it [bicycle ride].”

Exum is a Navy veteran who was active from 1975 to 1996 and was deployed during Operation Desert Storm on the USS La Salle. He says the Red Cross has always played an important role in his life.

“I had to deal with notifications as a call officer and when my grandparent died, I was deployed and I got a Red Cross message telling me what had happened,” says Exum, 61, of Simi Valley. “It’s important to support them.”

As an avid bike rider, Navy veteran Newman rode in the event two times. Active and in the reserves between 1959 to 1965, Newman recalls being in the Western Pacific on active duty and viewing the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor before the monument was built.

“That was an emotional experience,” says Newman, 81, of Tarzana. “When you went by Pearl Harbor, you saluted the Arizona. I did it at 5 in the afternoon with the gorgeous color of the mountains and ocean in the background.”

Newman says the bicycle ride is a common thread that joins everyone together.

“I like the association of helping veterans and appreciate what the guys are going through,” says Newman. “The problems the veterans have now are more recognized and treated more carefully than when I went through my service.”

The 2018 ride was also Tschaeche’s second year. As a veteran of the Air National Guard from 1977 to 2017, he was deployed in support of Team Spirit in Korea and had the opportunity to work with a patriot missile group during an Army exercise in New Mexico. He says the ride is important to bring awareness to veterans and the military.

“When my father-in-law died, I was deployed and my wife got a hold of me through the Red Cross,” says Tschaeche, 60, of Simi Valley. “I appreciate the Red Cross volunteers. They help a whole new world and I will support wherever I can.”

Krehbiel-Delson says looking forward, she hopes to see Operation: Ride for the Red throughout the U.S.

“My vision is for it to be as big as the Amgen Tour and Tour de France where bikers ride the streets and passersby acknowledge by saluting them,” says Krehbiel-Delson.

For more information and to get involved, contact Elizabeth “Liz” Baker, Ventura/Central Chapter Program Manager, at 805.322.7691 or visit RedCross.org.