For over 27 years, friend of the shop, Joan Cervenka, has participated in the Highground Heroes Ride, an annual multi-route, multi-day bike tour that raises funds for the Highground Veterans Memorial Park in Neillsville, WI. This year, a few more Moonies jumped on board and have been spending the summer training for this worthwhile cause.
The Highground is the nation’s Premier Veterans Memorial Park in the country. Located in Neillsville Wisconsin, the facility started as the Wisconsin Vietnam Veterans Memorial Project. It has now grown to a 155-acre park, including a museum, and an additional facility, Camp Victory located 15 minutes north of the main campus. The park is open year-round and is free to the public, the private facility is supported by donations and grants.
The Highground honors all who have served in times of conflict and in times of peace. Joan explains, “The Highground is a very special site, designed as an outdoor healing place for all Veterans. It started as a promise, a promise from one Veteran to another who was dying in the fields of Vietnam, a promise to remember. Then that soldier did just that. Born of an idea to memorialize his friend fallen in a battlefield in Vietnam, Tom Miller rode his bike all around Wisconsin to raise awareness, with his goal to develop a special place for Veterans. And so, the Highground came to be…a place of tribute for all Veterans.”
The New Moon ties go back almost 30 years, when Joan and her partner, Randy, rode in their first tour at the request of Barbara Lynn, Kristy Harrison’s mom. The ride was fun, fully- supported, and extremely profound. Joan remembers, “The first route was Hayward to Park Falls for the first overnight. Then on to Jump River. Then up very early in the morning to ride to The Highground in Neillsville, WI. When we got to Neillsville it was extremely moving. The love and care for all veterans was very overwhelming.” Since then, Joan has ridden 28 or 29 times.
Kristy Harrison took part in the tour both as a rider and support crew. “I first rode the Highground Ride with my parents in the early 80s. My mom, Barbara, was a social worker working with Vietnam veterans. Later she went on to work at the Highground full time in any capacity they needed her. Inspired to ride this year by friend Kristin Frane, Kristy wanted to share some of her history with her kids, “Now I am riding with my husband, Joel, and our kids, Lauren & Reese. My mom has since passed, but we are excited to be retracing her steps and showing her grandkids the part she played in the Highground and its vital work with veterans of all wars.”
With older kids and changing circumstances, this year, first-year rider Kristin is now able to take part in the event. “My friend Joan Cervenka has been riding for 28 years and for many years I’ve been wanting to join her to support the Veterans Highground but either my kids were in the Drummond play or else I had an annual work conference that always fell that week,” Kristin explains, “Everything was cancelled this year so I was super excited when I realized I could tag along with Joan and support the Veterans Highground.”
Kristin has firsthand knowledge of what it takes to be a military family. “My husband Chad is a veteran of the Iraqi war. He was in the National Guard and was called to duty when our kids were 3, 4, and 10 in 2009, so I saw firsthand the sacrifice.” She is also riding to honor her friends and family who have served. “The Veterans Highground is a very special place and through riding I’m hoping to raise awareness and funds for this special place.”
Training for the ride has been a constant this summer, and it’s been great to have the shop as a home base for the riders, getting to hear about their exploits on the roads about town. Every Sunday we’ve gotten to see the participants—despite rain and withering heat on several occasions, they train.
Kristin, a participant in many varied athletic events, including triathlons, runs, and bike rides, enjoys pushing herself. “Life begins outside my comfort zone,” Kristin says, “During this training cycle I’ve ridden further than I ever have before, which proves to me once again that I’m physically capable of pushing myself but it’s usually my mind that limits me.”
Unfortunately due to Covid-19, the Northern Route has undergone a few modifications. Joan explains, “At one point in time this Spring it was a GO for a full Heroes Highground Ride – Northern Route, from Hayward to Ladysmith, to Thorp to the Highground, in Neillsville.”
Then the reality set in that three of the groups that feed the riders and support crew needed to back away due to C-19. So, the full point to point Northern Route ride could not happen. Kristy, Kristen, and I said, ‘Let’s do a virtual ride!’”
Kristin looked on the bright side when she heard the news, “When I first heard that we would not be riding to Neillsville I was extremely disappointed even though I totally understood. I was looking forward to an adventure and riding from point to point. As time passed on though, I realized how nice it will be to be more in control of my own fuel intake, I’ll be able to recover at home, I’ll sleep better in my own bed and I’ll be able to be with my family and dog Willow at night.”
Kristy was glad the decision was made to change the format of the ride. “Health and safety of volunteers and riders comes first,” she agrees, “We’re going to do it virtually, and we are still collecting donations that will go directly to the Highground.”
When it comes to the new schedule and routes, Joan says, “We designed and are designing what we will be doing.” 3 days, 3 rides—July 31, August 1 and 2. The courses start and finish at the Veterans Community Center in Hayward and volunteers will be offering support every 15 miles. On Sunday, a lunch will be provided for participants by Lynn’s Meats.
For all involved, getting ready for the Highground Heroes ride has been an incredible journey so far. Kristin says, “In raising funds for the Veterans Highground, I’ve heard from so many Veterans and I’ve been moved by their stories. I will be riding in honor of those Veterans that have reached out.”
Please consider donating to this worthy cause! Best of luck to all participants and volunteers! DONATE HERE