Submitted by Michael Boll
I am a recently retired Township of Union Police Department sergeant. I decided to become a police officer after serving four years in the United States Marine Corps; I felt obligated to give back to my town. A few years ago, I began competing in running, triathlons, and other endurance races. Every time, I would finish after the average racer. I was happy with my accomplishments but wanted to do something more rewarding. I found inspiration in Dick Hoyt and his son Rick, who compete in various ultra-distance triathlons.
Rick has cerebral palsy and Dick must pull him in a raft for the swim, push him via an adapted tandem bike for the ride, and they run via a specialized wheelchair. They have been role models to countless numbers of people. I decided that one way I could give back to my community was to assist disabled veterans and first responders to compete in races.
After doing some research, I was able to contact a few colleagues and connected with the Challenged Athlete’s Foundation and their Operation Rebound Racing Team (ORRT). ORRT is a non-profit organization that strengthens the mental and physical well-being of veterans, military personnel, and first responders with permanent physical injuries by providing them opportunities to use sports and fitness to reintegrate into our communities and empower them through sports.
Every day approximately 22 veterans commit suicide, and over 300 first responders commit suicide each year. This team seeks out veterans and first responders in crisis, and will do whatever they can to help with this awful epidemic. I started the OR-NJ Team to empower and give purpose to our state’s combat veterans and first responders who live with the challenges related to physical injury and mental health issues, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). My goal is to get them to be part of the team so that they can participate and compete in various athletic events. We are one of the only charities that aggressively seek out veterans and first responders in need and give them a mentor for help. Our mobile outreach approach is responsible for saving lives and helping countless people cope with their situations with PTSD.
OR-NJ team was started over 3 years ago and we already have over 800 team members. All athletes who oversee the organization and participation in events are volunteers. We have created an emotional support system for every athlete and work with partners Team Red, White & Blue Central NJ (teamrwb.org) to constantly provide support for our teams. Our growing network has been able to assist our athletes with mentors, trainers, sports equipment, resume writing, jobs, housing, psychiatric care, and other things that benefit our athletes’ well-being.
Our main objective is to help our athletes develop physical and mental fitness to assist them with their future achievements. Despite their challenges, several members of OR-NJ are highly competitive, elite level athletes in their sport, competing to qualify for the Paralympics, national, and world competitions. As of this writing, our OR athletes completed over 20 sanctioned races, hosted numerous training events, and social gatherings.
The racing team empowers our athletes and gives them the overwhelming support required to participate in athletic events. All of our athletes’ expenses are financially covered. This is possible because of our highly dedicated support staff and the financial backing of the VFW, American Legion, NJ PBA, NJ FMBA, NJ PAPA, NJ FOP, and the IAPSNJ. We are working with the Somerset Patriots, NY Jets, NY Giants, NJ Devils, Rutgers University Wrestling, and other sports teams to help motivate our athletes to succeed and conquer their goals.
The team is always looking for members to join and attend our athletic events and hikes. Also, we are in need of athlete mentors and volunteers for our upcoming events. If you want to join or volunteer, please feel free to contact me at Mdbollio@optonline.net or call 973-332-1556. Since all of our money goes to our athletes, we ask anyone willing to donate to please contact us first. This way we can have you donate directly to an athlete or an event. Frontline to finish line!