BUTTE — Some enjoy running 5Ks or 10Ks for a cause, but Lorri and Dean Zenoni are taking that many steps further. They are riding their bikes 2,500 miles from the Canadian Border all the way down to New Mexico in order to raise money for veterans.
“Troop welfare is the hallmark of the Marine Corps, right?” said Dean Zenoni.
They are making the epic 62-day trip down the Great Divide Mountain Bike route starting in Montana making their way through Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and finishing in New Mexico. They began on June 11.
“Some days could be 70(miles), some days could be 30, but overall over the 62 days it averages to about 40 a day,” Dean said.
Already a quarter of the way through their trip, everything they need is on their bikes. The Zenoni’s are making the long journey to raise money for a non-profit organization called Semper Fi & America’s fund. It’s dedicated to providing urgently needed resources and support for combat wounded, critically ill and catastrophically injured members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families. Their goal is to raise $100,000. They are already over $30,000.
“To know that we’re bringing more awareness to all service members who have been injured, who fight for our freedoms everyday and preserve that freedom and to know that I can give back in some way, to me absolutely gets me up to ride the next day,” said Dean's wife Lorri.
Dean, who retired as Master Sergeant from the Marine Corps, is actually a beneficiary of the fund after he was injured in Fallujah, Iraq.
“Happened in an MRAP," the retired Marine said. "Our vehicle hit an IED or a rocket hole and I got slammed around inside and suffered a cervical spine injury. That ended up killing some nerves in my upper pec and my tricep and created a great deal of pain. When I first got out and started going to school, they helped to bridge some gaps there. Since that introduction what really has helped me the most is the sports and athletic programs.”
This is Dean’s way of not only giving back to an organization that has helped him so much, but he hopes to be an inspiration for other veterans.
“One of the guys that we haven’t really heard from in a bunch of years reached out to us and said that watching our stuff everyday has inspired him to get off his but and start doing something again, Dean Zenoni said. "That felt really good."
You’d think the Zenonis would get sick of each other, but that’s not the case. As difficult as some of the trek might be, they get to enjoy the beautiful terrain and being married for over 20 years they know each other like the back of their hands.
“For us to be able to ride together is pretty amazing," said Lorri Zenoni. "You see the best and worst of people, but we’re married so we see that everyday anyway. It’s not any different being on a bike everyday.”
Dean had the idea to make the bike ride last fall and the two have been training since January to make the journey.
“My wife’s a badass,” he said.
Plus, it’s all for a great cause.
“There’s so many things out there available for injured veterans who are struggling that they just don’t know about. I can’t tell you how many veterans I run into and I tell them about something and (they say), ‘I didn’t know about that,’” said Dean Zenoni.
Those who would like to donate can do so here.
For those who would like to follow along, there is an interactive map that is following them in real-time. The password to get in is 1775.