Written By: Zach Briggs | KVOA
TUCSON- A San Diego man stopped in the Old Pueblo to talk about his mission of biking across the country to raise money for the Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation.
“When it comes down to this, it’s not a right or a left thing (politically-speaking). This is an American thing,” said 43-year-old Ryan Lee Gehris.
The journey kicked off in Ocean Beach, San Diego, California, on April 2.
“People like my grandfather made the ultimate sacrifice for you and I and everybody else to live the lives we live,” Gehris said.
Leon Charles Stein served 23 years in the U.S. Navy. His military career spanned from the south pacific theater of World War 2 to the Korean Conflict to Vietnam.
“He was killed in 1968 and my mother was left behind,” Gehris said.
His mother Patti Stein, was just 14-years-old when her father died in the line of duty.
The loss of loved ones who’ve served in the armed forces impacts everyone.
“It doesn’t end on the battlefield. It comes home and it goes onto the children. They feel that. The wives, the husbands, the grandmas,” Gehris said.
He’s now fulfilling his own duty of biking from coast to coast, Pedaling for Pattie while raising money for Children of Fallen Patriots.
“That’s what’s great about this foundation is they work on scholarships and counseling for these young people. They go looking for these young people, these young Gold Star students who may have fallen through the cracks,” Gehris said.
Nearly 20,000 children have lost an active-duty military parent over the last 35 years, according to the Children of Fallen Patriots website.
The foundation has aided well over 1,000 students nationally, equaling almost $22 million in support.
Gehris noted he’s met plenty of patriotic people along the way, those who believe in the overall cause.
"They want to buy you dinner. Or they just want to -- hey you can stay -- I'll have my friend, they have an extra room in the back of the garage. You can stay there for the night. Little stuff like that has been really cool. The camaraderie you could call it -- the basic camaraderie of regular Americans,” he said.
The goal is to reach Ground Zero in New York City by Memorial Day.
Gehris is asking for individuals to donate at least $22, as the number 22 represents the number of American veterans who take their own lives every day.
He’s raised nearly $750 so far.
To donate and learn more: https://p2p.charityengine.net/ChildrenOfFallenPatriots/fundraising/individual/PEDALING-FOR-PATTIE