Meet our featured athletes
Face of America includes exceptional athletes from all backgrounds. Here are profiles of a few remarkable athletes who will be participating or who have ridden to Gettysburg in past years.
Holbrook, New York adaptive Army veteran Christopher Levi served two overseas tours in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2006 and 2007. But an ambush while heading to Baghdad’s Green Zone in 2008 forever changed his life. In an instant, he lost both legs above the knee and sustained damage to his hand. Trying hand cycling to improve his fitness upon his return to New York, a chance encounter encouraged him to ride Face of America in 2013. He’s since been a regular participant with a new confidence that not only gave him a better outlook on life, but also led him into a challenging business profession.
Massachusetts athlete Gina Utegg is no stranger to World T.E.A.M. As a volunteer to the non-profit organization following an automobile accident, she saw first-hand how sporting activities help improve lives of individuals who live with disabilities. It took a diagnosis of breast cancer in 2009, followed by surgery, chemo and radiation treatments, to convince her that participating as an athlete could also help her. The following year, she rode her first Face of America, finishing near the end of the pack. She’s now an annual participant, improving her fitness, allowing her to join Colorado’s Adventure Team Challenge with other adaptive athletes from across the nation. Watch Gina Utegg talk about competing in Colorado’s difficult Challenge.
Col Gregory Gadson
Col. Gregory Gadson lettered four years as co-captain for his Army Black Knights football team at West Point. In 2007, the former defensive tackle was serving as Commander of the 2-32 Field Artillery Battalion in Baghdad, Iraq. Returning to base following a memorial service, a roadside bomb destroyed his vehicle, taking both legs and injuring his right arm. Evacuated to Walter Reed in Washington, Col. Gadson took up hand cycling to maintain his physical fitness. His first Face of America was only two years later, and since then, the Virginia athlete has inspired other veterans and the able-bodied through regular participation. Of course, his acting career, starting when he battled aliens in the 2012 Universal Pictures’ science fiction movie, “Battleship” also provides inspiration to many. Watch a Face of America Minute with Col. Gregory Gadson.
Michael Fuentespina lives each day with hearing loss, tinnitus and Post Traumatic Stress. An active-duty member of the Canadian Armed Forces who has served in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and across the world, Michael believes his experience and knowledge can help other adaptive veterans who are struggling with their life expectations and goals. A member of World T.E.A.M.’s 2014 CanAm Veterans Challenge bicycle ride from Ottawa to Washington D.C., the Ontario cyclist recognizes the power that sports has in empowering veterans to overcome challenges in their lives.
83-year-old Lew Meyer from Washington State has been a regular Face of America Gettysburg participant. Holding multiple records in cross-country bicycling, Lew reports he rode to Gettysburg on his tandem bike “for those that didn’t come back.” On the back of his bike were strapped the boots from Corporal Jim “Seamus” Garrahy, a Gettysburg Marine Corps veteran who enthusiastically supported and hosted Face of America at his farm until his 2012 passing. Though Seamus may be gone, his spirit lives on in the comradery and support of the inclusive cycling challenge. Watch a Face of America Minute with Lew Meyer.
Are you riding Face of America to Gettysburg and have a remarkable personal story about your background you would like to share? Send us your story by email message and attach a high definition digital image. Selected stories will be added to our Featured Athlete page and may be expanded for a story on our World T.E.A.M. site. Thanks!