Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System
Muskogee Police Partners with VA Cycling Program
When the EOVAHCS Cycling Program began in September 2015, five Veterans signed up to attend the first cycling clinic.
Since then, more than 40 Veterans have signed up and 15-20 Veterans regularly attend the clinics each week. However with more demand, the need for more bicycles has also increased.
“We’re in desperate need of bikes, because we have more riders than we do bikes,” said Marlene Diaz, Peer Support Specialist and EOVAHCS Cycling Program Coordinator. “That’s a great problem to have.”
Darla Bennett, who works for the city of Muskogee in Economic Development and donates her time to support the Cycling Program, recently reached out to the Muskogee Police Department to see if they had any confiscated or abandoned bicycles that could be donated to VA.
The Police Department jumped at the opportunity to help Veterans.
“We’re thrilled that the Muskogee Police Department has offered to donate the bikes to the program,” said Bennett. “These are confiscated bikes for whatever reason. Once they process them, we’ll look at them and see if they can be fixed up or if they’re ready to roll. I’m excited about it.”
Not only is the local Police Department supporting the Cycling Program, the Fraternal Order of the Police in Muskogee also decided to donate four new bicycles to the program on Feb. 19.
“Veterans are a big part of our community,” said Lincoln Anderson, Muskogee Police Officer. “Anything we can do to support the VA and our Veterans, we’re all for it.”
Cycling Program Information
EOVHCS holds a cycling clinic each Monday from 10 to 11 a.m., Wednesday from 9 to 10 a.m. and Friday from 9 a.m. to noon, weather permitting, starting at the Main Entrance of the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center.
Veterans learn cycling skills and ride approximately 15-20 miles on Centennial Trail in Muskogee.
The clinics are intended for Veterans who receive treatment through the EOVHCS Behavioral Medicine Service or Outpatient Rehabilitation.
However, all enrolled Veterans can participate by contacting their Primary Care Team.
“We give them a fitness test and see where they are initially,” said Diaz. “They don’t have to be fit to begin with. We will start them off slowly and build their strength.”
While there are many health benefits of cycling, Diaz said Veterans also benefit from socializing with other Veterans in the program.
“They enjoy riding their bikes and the freedom it gives them,” said Diaz. “It has helped them reduce their medications and helped them lose weight. However, the time they share with other Veterans I think is the most important. A lot of them either live alone or don’t have family. It brings back the camaraderie that they’re missing. It reinvigorates them.”