Veterans Organizations Team Up For Backwoods Veterans Ride

Ray Edgar, Warrior PATHH Guide at the Travis Mills Foundation, was one Maine veteran rider in the 2024 Backwoods Veterans Ride, hosted last month northern Maine by Backwoods Veterans Foundation, combining the love of a traditional Maine winter sport, camaraderie and support of our nation’s veterans.

Edgar, a Farmington, Maine, resident, was sponsored by Judged Gear for last year’s ride and in turn, helped the Travis Mills Foundation sponsor two Maine veterans and recent Warrior PATHH graduate Mike Whelpley for the 2024 ride.

Warrior PATHH (Progressive & Alternative Training for Helping Heroes), is a program hosted by the Travis Mills Foundation in partnership with the Avalon Action Network, designed to cultivate and facilitate Post-Traumatic Growth (PTG) in combat veterans and first responders. The program enables participants to transform times of deep struggle into profound strength and growth.

The training begins with a 7-day on-site initiation at the Travis Mills Foundation that is followed by 90 days of training delivered by PATHH Guides, not clinicians, who have all completed the programs themselves and are just a bit further on the path.

Whelpley, a Wilton, Maine, resident, completed Warrior PATHH at the Travis Mills Foundation in 2022, and said he appreciated the opportunity to disconnect from everyday life, while enjoying the scenic views and wildlife spotted along last month’s ride.

Before attending Warrior PATHH, Mike said it wasn’t likely that he’d attend such an event and in fact, he would have gone out of his way to avoid it.

“PATHH has not only allowed me the ability to live a life of joy, but it also has changed my family, my friends and other vets I encounter for the better,” Mike said. “It has created generational happiness and good mental health practices as I share my feelings and experiences more openly and honestly. I am quick to point out my struggles and some of the practices I learned and lean on to this day.”

Mike credits the Backwoods Veteran Foundation for doing an amazing job creating an atmosphere of family on the ride. 

“To be around like minded people, people with the same values, gave me a sense of camaraderie that was lost since my time in service, and a feeling I wasn’t sure I’d ever have again,” Mike said. “I was truly blessed to be with a group of vets and patriots that still love this glorious country.”

The ride was based out of Pittston Farm in Rockwood, Maine. Riders traveled to Jackman to visit Border Riders Sportsmen Club and Dole Pond in Dole Pond Township.

Edgar said it was an honor for him to help sponsor Whelpley for the ride, adding that his favorite part of the trip was the camaraderie experienced, and being in a place where he could be himself and relax.

“There are so many veterans at the event and everyone is looking out for one another, as are all the other people that support the event,” Ray added. “It’s like the culture I was accustomed to in the Army. Everyone pulling together to accomplish a mission, no complaining, no drama, people just making things happen for others – that’s what service is to me. 

“It was particularly special for me this year, to look up from the trail and see Mike riding my snowmobile and knowing I was doing something to help him have a positive experience like I did in 2023,” he said.

Kayla Krause, Finance & Administration Manager at the Travis Mills Foundation, helped organize the Foundation’s sponsorship for the ride, and attended as a representative of the organization, offering information to fellow riders on programs supported by the Foundation.

“It was amazing to have two departments at the Travis Mills Foundation (Finance and Warrior PATHH) working closely together to support another nonprofit with a mission similar to ours” Krause said, adding that it was satisfying to offer an experience to four of the state’s veterans who wouldn’t generally have that opportunity.

Such events are also an opportunity to network with other similar organizations, all working to make better the lives of veterans.

“I felt like we hit so many marks,” Krause added.

Whelpley commends the Travis Mills Foundation for its support:

“I am forever indebted to you all and I will never be able to put my feelings of gratitude into words,” he said. “The love that resonates from you is truly not only helping the veterans you aim to serve, but is changing the lives of future generations. I strive everyday to share what you’ve given me with those around me. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.”