Dozens of veterans cycling down the California coast were given a hero’s welcome while pedaling through Oceano Thursday morning.
Cheering kids from nearby Oceano Elementary School lined Highway 1 to give the men and welcome a warm greeting as they biked from Pismo Beach to Solvang.
It was part of the annual Project Hero California Challenge bike ride, a six-day trip from Santa Cruz to Santa Barbara.
“It’s very inspiring,” said Marine Corps veteran John Morlock. “It gives us a lot of motivation to continue the ride, help each other and make everything we’ve done worth it to see this reaction from the children here.”
The ride helps raise funds and bring awareness to veteran-related issues, as well as medical and clinical research.
Oceano Elementary has been taking part in the ride since it was created 12 years ago.
For the past six years, including Thursday, many kids from the school rode briefly with the veterans, cycling just under a mile from Pier Avenue to 15th Street.
“It’s nice especially because we ride right next to them and it’s good to support them while they’re riding especially since it’s such a long journey,” said sixth grader Van Atkinson.
Prior to the ride, students have spent the past several weeks writing to the veterans in the ride.
For several minutes, Highway 1 was closed between 15th Street and Beach Street, where veterans were greeted with loud cheers from students holding signs and flags.
During the stop, veterans were able too meet the students and find the kids they’ve been writing to.
“It gives the kids an opportunity to see and greet and work with people they have no connection to,” said Oceano Elementary principal Michelle Johnson. “It’s a community service aspect as well. We use it as an educational piece so that they understand the sacrifice that their fellow Americans are making for them, even though they may not know these adults and all the efforts they have made for them and our country.”
The Project Hero California Challenge bike ride will continue Friday with a ride from Solvang to Santa Barbara.
It finishes on Saturday in Santa Barbara.
For more information, visit the Project Hero website.