I'd like to introduce you to Kevin Campagna. He emailed us recently about having a batch of branded growlers made for his non-profit organization Pedal Against PTSD, and we were inspired by his story. Kevin is a combat veteran of the United States Marine Corps, and has battled with PTSD on and off since getting out of the Marines in 2004. He found that cycling was the best way for him to combat his symptoms and has since become a passionate cyclist. In 2013, he competed in the Tour Divide MTB race (the route follows the Great Divide trail 2,745 miles, from Canada to Mexico) to raise awareness of PTSD. Shortly after finishing, he founded Pedal Against PTSD to help empower veterans to overcome PTSD through the sport of cycling.
Being from an avid cycling city (our Sprocket growlers are inspired by the cogs of a bicycle), we were especially intrigued by his story, and cause. I Skyped with Kevin and friend/partner Sean Tremblay, recently to learn more about them, what they're doing, and how they planned to use the growlers to raise awareness for Pedal Against PTSD.
What inspired you to ride the Tour Divide?
A buddy of mine rode the Tour Divide in 2012, right around same time I'd watched Ride the Divide
, a film about the race before it got big. Back then about 8-20 riders started the race, now it's closer to 100 riders. I was really inspired by my buddy and the movie, but I was totally intrigued by the idea that it was labeled the toughest mountain biking race in the world. I wanted to do something to raise awareness of PTSD and combining that with my passion for endurance riding, the Tour Divide was a perfect way to kick it off.
Tell me a little more about organizing and developing Pedal Against PTSD?
Kevin: I'd started thinking about Pedal Against PTSD before I rode the Tour Divide, but when I got back I used the momentum created from the ride to officially get started. At first it was an awareness building group, but slowly migrated towards a non-profit. We did small events to gain awareness and talk with people. Eventually, with more manpower, we started doing local casual rides and we're hoping to piggyback on larger rides once we get more established, but we're growing fast! We officially became a non-profit in October of 2014.
How did you hear about PGC and decide to order branded growlers?
I wanted a beer growler for myself and did google search for "best beer growler." A post from Bon Appetit magazine about the 11 Best Beer Growlers
came up in the search results and saw PGC's Sprocket. I found the PGC site, watched the "How We Make It Video
" and I was sold. I especially liked that they were American made. We decided to get some growlers branded to help raise awareness of Pedal Against PTSD- they're really a conversation starter.
What's your favorite local watering hole to fill up your growler?
Kevin: Craft and Growler is the biggest fill station in the area and they have about 40 - 50 beers on tap at a time; lots of limited release brews and beers that aren't available in bottles yet. You can find some really rare stuff there. They've also been great supporters of local charities (Pedal Against PTSD included): they donate $1 for every pint sold on Tuesday nights to the charity of the evening.
Sean: My favorite brewery is Peticolas in Dallas. It's a smaller brewery in the industrial part of town. Despite being a smaller brewer, working with smaller vats, they consistently generate a quality product. My favorite is their Red Ale Velvet Hammer. It's got a 9% ABV but tastes so good. Have two pints or more and watch out though! I also really like Grapevine Craft Brewery; the only place in Texas that has the cans with the whole top that pops off. Plus they have great artwork and branding. Everybody makes good beer but it's those little details that I really appreciate.
What are your goals for Pedal Against PTSD?
Our goal is to never compete with systems already in action, yet communicate the local resources via a cycling community. The goal is huge but we believe the need is even bigger. We feel there are more veterans needing assistance than the government can handle. Just spend 30 minutes in a VA hospital and you will see what we mean.
As of now, we take in donated bikes, fix them up, and give them to veterans who want to try cycling to help the everyday battle with PTSD, but can't afford a bike. As the budget grows, we want to have a small rental fleet of bikes for veterans to borrow for local events. We also want to provide fully outfitted bicycles to veterans throughout the year. Once we have a solid operational plan, we want to grow beyond Dallas and have different regional chapters.
How are you raising awareness now and how can someone get involved if they want to volunteer or contribute?
We've been growing quickly in a grass roots way. Sending bikes out all over the states with custom Pedal Against PTSD stickers and handlebar tape and leveraging social media to spread information and engage with the community has been invaluable. The Strava app has also been a great tool to connect with people all over the world. It's an app that connects you with other athletes. You can upload your rides, follow others rides and get "kudos" from the group. The Pedal Against PTSD group has members all over the country and even overseas.
We are always looking for volunteers to help with fundraiser ideas and planning, or host local events. If you would be interested in helping Pedal Against PTSD grow and / or have ideas you'd like to share, please contact us!
Learn more about Kevin and Pedal Against PTSD through this short film from Shoulders of Giants or by checking out their facebook, instagram .
Talking with Giants: Shoulders of Giants Presents Kevin Campagna of Pedal Against PTSD from fifty50studios on Vimeo.
We're looking forward to collaborating more with Pedal Against PTSD and sharing more of their story as it evolves in the not-too-distant future. Cheers!