David and Mike Charbonnet (courtesy photo)
Former SEALs plan bike ride fundraiser
The phrase “like father, like son” was coming to fruition for Mike and David Charbonnet until a horrific accident redirected them in a way they never imagined.
The father, Mike, a Scripps Ranch resident, is a Navy SEAL veteran. His Class 98 recently had its 40th reunion. His son, David, born in San Diego, was in Class 278 and following in his father’s footsteps.
Then, about a year into his career at age 26, David was injured in a parachuting accident outside of San Diego which left him paralyzed from the waist down. That was in October of 2011.
Mike and his wife, Beth, were living in Texas at the time but quickly realized changes were coming.
“We got the news (about David’s injury) and found out we were going to need to move right away,” Mike said.
After a series of medical procedures, David began rehabilitating at the VIP NeuroRehabilitation Center in San Diego. A process that continues to this day.
Along the way, however, he was given the opportunity to become the president of VIP NeuroRehabilitation Center, which now includes the title of CEO as well.
“Before taking over that clinic, the biggest thing he ever organized was a paint ball game,” Mike joked. “He has come a long ways.”
Just as David, along with his wife, Janet, who also helps manage VIP, were making adjustments in their lives, Mike was not a spectator on the sidelines. He and some of his fellow SEAL classmates created Beyond the Teams, an organization to help those with physical challenges, cultural disadvantages and needs that were not being met.
As Mike was quoted in a recent article, “Our battlefield is no longer the theater of Special Warfare. It’s the world of fundraising.”
One of those efforts is coming up in a few months when Mike and four of his SEAL friends are going to make a 1,000-mile bike ride to raise money for VIP NeuroRehabilitation Center, which is a stand-alone non-profit that services people from all walks of life, whether they have been in the military or not.
Specifically, there is one piece of equipment that is always in high demand at VIP.
Called the Lokomat, it basically helps people learn how to walk again.
“I would say 80 to 85 percent of the patients at the VIP need and use the Lokomat,” Mike said. “The results in some cases have been phenomenal. Some patients are actually walking again.”
The challenge right now is that VIP NeuroRehabilitation Center only has one of the units and the cost is $350,000 for a second unit.
“To date we have raised $25,000 but, obviously, we have a long way to go to reach our goal,” Mike said.
The bike ride will begin in late October in Virginia Beach, Virginia. It will take 11 days and finish at the Navy SEAL Museum in Ft. Pierce, Florida on Nov. 9, coinciding with the 34th annual Muster and Music Festival Honoring The 75th Anniversary of D-Day.
The last segment of the ride will be 53-miles.
“I have had 29 surgeries. My fellow SEALS on the ride are old geezers like myself,” Mike said. “But if I have to crawl to Florida, I will be there.”
The plan now is for David to join the group for the last segment by using a hand cycle.
Those who would like to make a donation can do so by visiting the VIP NeuroRehabilitation Center website vipneurorehab.org or Beyond the Teams at beyondtheteams.org.