A New Hampshire firefighter plans to ride his bike up the entire east coast to raise money for disabled veterans.
Project Hope builds and donates adaptive bicycles for disabled veterans. Sandown firefighter Jerry Lachance, a veteran himself, is pedaling toward that goal.
Lachance will fly Sunday out of Manchester-Boston Regional Airport Sunday to Miami. He will then bike to Key West, Florida, take a ferry to Marco Island, and begin heading north to the Canadian border.
"I put 1,500 miles on to get ready for this ride," Lachance said.
Lachance has been riding his bike for 10 years, but he said one unique bike ride a few years ago with a disabled veteran set him on course for the special journey he's preparing to make.
"He lost his leg in the service," Lachance said. "When we got to the top of the hill, I asked him what happened. He told me, and I said, 'Well, where did you get the bike?' [He said] 'Project Hero gave the bike to me.'"
The conversation inspired Lachance to ride and raise money. In 2017, Lachance rode from the Canadian border to Miami for Ride2Recovery, a veteran's adaptive sports program. He had a goal of raising $5,000, but ended up raising $25,000. This year, Lachance hopes to raise $25,000 for Project Hero.
"I remember the men we left behind," Lachance said. "There's nothing we can do for them, but we can help the guys that are coming back."
Lachance said the bikes help disabled veterans feel like they still have something to give after their life-altering injuries.
"A veteran is someone who gave the federal government a blank check for everything they own, including their life," Lachance. "If they're willing to do that, if a little bike ride is going to help them, it's well worth it."
Lachance will ride anywhere from 60 to 85 miles a day. On most of his stops along the journey, he will stay at firehouses.
"I get to these stations and they're just so welcoming, and it's like I'm some kind of hero, and that's not really the case," Lachance said. "I'm riding a bike. That's all I'm doing."
Lanchance said his ride is a small sacrifice for those who were not as lucky as him.
"What a life I have that I came home, I have a family and that poor guy didn't get any chance," Lachance said. "That's why I do it. Kind of cause I'm grateful for being home."
Lachance will end his ride in Pittsburgh, New Hampshire, on May 19 before coming back home to Sandown. Click here to follow his journey.