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RVTD bike program provides pedals for patriots

RVTD is refurbishing donated bicycles for veterans, providing them a means of transportation and a sense of independence. (Genevieve Grippo/KTVL)

With two wheels under their feet, southern Oregon's veterans are riding towards a greater sense of independence.

It's in part thanks to the Rogue Valley Transportation District, a sector of which has invested in a project to provide idle vets with bicycles.

Dave Fulton, the RVTD's Veteran's Travel Trainer, started the program nearly a year ago. Since then, he's been able to provide about 54 veterans with bikes-- giving them the ability to commute without having to rely on family or public transportation.

"It's hard for me to imagine being without what I need to accomplish my goals every day, and to take care of my family," said Fulton. "I know that these [bicycles] help them do that."

Fulton notes that many veterans in the valley go without help for metal illnesses like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It's a problem that has some falling on hard times, ranging anywhere from a loss of work or family to homelessness.

These bikes can help them get back on their feet.

"We mainly aim to help out our veterans that are needing to get connected with services, whether it be at the V.A. or any homeless program, or if they're working on employment or education," he said.

The bicycles also provide more freedom than public transportation. They help close the transportation gap if a veteran needs to travel somewhere outside of a bus's coverage area or hours of operation.

A military-man himself, Fulton closely identifies with the program's purpose.

"On the side of my wife and kids, this is the highlight of my life," he said. "Just being able to be out in the community everyday, connecting with other veterans. We all have a different story, a different walk of life, and some of us have more of a need than others."

When it comes to the bikes themselves, all have been donated from a variety of sources throughout the community. About 80 percent are damaged in some way, so it's up to Fulton and his volunteers to repair them.

The unnamed project is most certainly a community effort. For at least the next year, the Medford School District has donated use of an old warehouse to serve as the team's repair shop.

Currently, there are over 60 bikes being worked on in the warehouse-- ten of which are ready to be distributed on Monday. Fulton says he also has a backyard full of bikes that still need fixing.

Right now, there is a wait-list of 18 veterans awaiting their bicycles.

If you or someone you know is a veteran who could benefit from a bike, or has bikes to donate, contact Dave Fulton at the RVTD.

You can reach him by phone at (541) 608-2423, or via e-mail at dfulton@rvtd.org.




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