Reef Ride 2012 Concluded

All Press Releases…
November 20, 2012
Belize City, Belize
Contact:
Audrey Matura-Shepherd ( amatura-shepherd@oceana.org )





“I thank Oceana for making
this possible. Oceana’s sponsorship, along with the support of my family and so
many others, allowed Shaphan and me to today complete the ride across Belize
here in Punta Gorda, to coincide with a special day for our Garifuna brothers,”
said inspirational paraplegic Jerome Flores shortly before midday yesterday
after Reef Ride 2012 culminated at the Central Park in Punta Gorda Town, Toledo
District.  Added fellow paraplegic
Shaphan “Bala” Domingo, “I am so glad I was able to meet this challenge of
riding a trike from Dangriga to Punta Gorda. Next stop:  Rio, Brazil in 2016 at the Para Olympics!”


Reef Ride 2012, a 2-day
event, left Dangriga on the morning of November 18th and that first
leg of the ride ended in Independence, where the team rested for the final leg
the following day. Joining Jerome and Shaphan, were 12 cyclists from the Belize
Zoo, including its Director Sharon Matola. 
On day two, Jerome and Shaphan were accompanied all the way from
Independence to Punta Gorda by Cyclist John Olivera. There were intermittent
cyclists who joined the Ride along the way into Punta Gorda.  Reef Ride 2012 was very much a family affair.
Jerome’s Dad Samuel Flores, celebrated his 54th birthday by riding
alongside his son almost the entire route. Jerome’s twin brother Jeremy, and
his partner Gina, also rode.  Damion
Jones and Mitchell Bainton accompanied Shaphan.Other members of the Flores
Family, including Jerome’s Mom Francine Flores, his partner Alexie Silva,
Sister Monique, Nephew  Caleb, and Cousin
Esmeralda along with Oceana in Belize staff 
comprised the service team, which followed the riders to ensure their
safety and that their other needs to complete the ride were attended to. Escort
was provided by the Transport Departments of both Dangriga Town and Punta Gorda
Town.


Jerome & Bala undertook
Reef Ride 2012 to complete the last leg of a challenge Jerome started back in
2009 to ride a hand-powered trike across Belize.  His primary aim, then as now: to bring awareness
to the plight of people living with diverse abilities.  Through its sponsorship this year and last, Oceana
in Belize sought to lend its full support to Jerome’s mission even as its
involvement bring attention of Oceana’s own campaign for a ban on offshore oil
drilling due to its threat to Belize’s marine resource.Additionally, as the
Reef Ride coincided with Garifuna Settlement Day, it served as a means for
Oceana to salute our Garinagu compatriots as they celebrate their 1802 arrival
to Belizean shores.


Last year Shaphan followed
Jerome in the Oceana bus and committed to ride alongside Jerome this year if he
got a trike.  He did as Jerome was able
to pass on to Shaphan the do-it-yourself trike he had used between 2009 &
2011.  This year Jerome rode an Invacare
professional trike donated to him through US-based Challenged Athletes
Foundation. 


Orange Walk Town based Mr.
Adrian Camara, who had accompanied Jerome on earlier segments to the Ride, was
again unable to participate this year due to health issues. Beyond the Reef
Ride, Jerome, Shaphan and their team hope to represent Belize at the 2016 Para-Olympics
in Rio de Janero, Brazil, following the Summer Olympics. They also hope to be
able of organize a series for fund-raising events in coming years where
athletes in wheelchairs go up against others not so challenged.