“I decided to get in shape, so I started riding my bicycle and got in pretty good shape over the last three years,” Schwartz said, adding he lost 50 pounds and reversed his Type 2 diabetes diagnosis. “Last year, while I was riding my bike — I do a lot of praying — I was just saying, ‘OK Lord, I’m spending all this time on this bike to keep physically fit and to lose weight, [so] what can [I] do with it to be productive and to help somebody?’ Next thing I know, it was revealed to me that I should ride my bicycle across the entire United States for veterans.
“So I thought about it. I did some research on the Wounded Warrior Project and decided that would be an excellent charity to potentially help out. So I talked with some friends and we decided to form a nonprofit organization called Freedom’s Heart and it specializes in veterans affairs. We decided the first fundraiser we would do to help out veterans would be this bicycle ride across America. So we named it Cycling for Warriors and I’m going to be cycling across the United States.”
Planning to start their trek in San Diego, Calif., Schwartz and his brother also intend to visit and assist veterans on their route.
“We are going to be stopping at 12 VA hospitals along the way, visiting wounded warriors and veterans and their families,” Schwartz said. “Like I said, the primary beneficiary of the fundraising at least half of what we raise will go to the Wounded Warrior Project, then the remaining — after expenses obviously — is going to be used to help veterans that we actually meet along the way, individuals who might need something that the government can’t provide them.
“So we will try our best to help accommodate them with some kind of special needs. ... They [will] tell me what they need, then I’ll get with my board of directors of the nonprofit and we will choose some people to help out. We’re very excited about that, because we’re going to help people who have no idea yet that they’re going to be receiving help from somebody.”
With his journey approaching, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal have officially recognized his efforts.
In a portion of Deal’s letter, he told Schwartz, “I am pleased to extend my warmest regards to the Freedom’s Heart Corporation as you hold the ‘Cycling for Warriors’ event. On behalf of the state of Georgia, it is a pleasure to be a small part of this important initiative. Please allow me to welcome your talented cyclists, distinguished guests, honorees, their families, and other attendees as you travel through our state. With the purpose of raising awareness of veteran’s issues as well as fundraising for the ‘Wounded Warrior Project’ I applaud the Freedom’s Heart Corporation for your continued efforts and service in support of our nation’s veterans.
“I would especially like to recognize ‘Cycling for Warriors’ featured cyclist and retired U.S. Navy Senior Chief, Michael Schwartz from Cartersville, Georgia. Your record of conduct, performance, and devotion to duty reflect your allegiance to the highest standards of the military profession. It is that kind of ardent patriotism that makes the United States the beacon of democracy and liberty for the rest of the world to follow. On behalf of a grateful state and nation, I thank you for your service.”
In preparation for the Cycling for Warriors venture, Schwartz has been bicycling five days a week, averaging 25 to 40 miles. Along with maintaining his training regimen, he also recently was busy trying to assist his daughter, who is in need of a kidney transplant.
His 17-year-old daughter, Gracie, was born with a solitary kidney and was diagnosed with a kidney disease at age 7. Over the last 10 years, her kidney has declined in function, leading medical professionals to declare she needs dialysis or a kidney transplant or both, Schwartz said.
“I got the information [last week] that unfortunately they’ve declined me as the donor,” he said. “... The reason why is medically it’s just the way my kidney is fed through the arteries is not conducive to the type of kidney they want for a transplant. It’s a medical issue but unfortunately they said, ‘As healthy as you are, we can’t take the kidney because of the way it is.’
“... Thank God though we have another donor who’s already ... [been determined to be] a match and we’re starting the physical tests for her to make sure that she can do it and then we’ll go forward. ... [And] we also have a lot of other people who are waiting in line to be tested, if we need them.”
For more information or to donate to Schwartz’ Cycling for Warriors ride, visit www.cyclingforwarriors.org or view its Facebook page.