Paralyzed from the waist down - 28 year old Burrell Boom resident Jerome Flores - is determined to raise awareness about persons living with disabilities.
Over the years, we've catalogued his epic awareness-raising rides and now he is getting ready to take on another extremely challenging mission.
This time Flores is getting prepared to ride his homemade, customized recumbent trike through the Hummingbird highway in a grueling fundraising effort sponsored by Oceana.
It's called Reef Ride 2011 and we caught up with Flores today who told us, it will be a challenge trekking through those hills but he is ready to take it on.
Jerome Flores "As everyone knows every year I do part of the major highway in Belize, to bring this awareness to persons living with disability. This year it's the killer hills that I am attempting to ride to bring awareness through the Humming Bird, we will start from Belmopan and we will end up in Dangriga."
"It's the first time riding through it, and going in there and train and see the challenge that it will be, but I won't let that keep me down and before I've been riding just minor hills and what's not. But his year it will be very challenging, but I won't let that keep me down I will make sure I push through and compete this ride."
Monica Bodden "How long have you been training for this?"
Jerome Flores "Believe it or not, since I got this sponsorship from Oceana and their support - pretty much a month and change training and that's very limited but with the help and the support of my family and friends we've being able to modify in training in certain ways that I don't strain myself but at the same time I am building my muscle."
Audrey Matura-Shepherd, Vice president of Oceana "Well the Reef Ride is really to bring awareness to two major national issues, the first one being attention to the plight of people living with disabilities, the fact remains that we have a lot of people living with disabilities in this country who are not getting the services and assistances they need, and a lot of people who may seem normal right now, but they don't know when it will be their day. You don't know when there will be an accident, you don't know when diagnose with some major illness that disables your body physically and so we thought that when Jerome approached us it will be great we want to partner with him. The second issue is that the issue of off shore oil is still one of national importance and he was prepared to lend his voice to this issue and so we want to remind people that it is still a live issue. It is still one that people should have a say in and we thought that by doing the ride we bring awareness and bring attention to this critical issue. And so we partnered together and Jerome is the man of the hour, he is at the center and he agrees with us that off shore oil should be something that should not happen in the country but he recognize that like Oceana, we say there should be an oil industry but one that will actually bring back money into the really needs of the country which is education and health services and under health services comes the care of people with disabilities."
"We have an account at First Caribbean BAPDA and we want people to contribute to that cause and put the money in the First Caribbean account, so that it brings about the work that they want to do, that they have the finances to be able to do that."
The ride begins at 6am on Friday in Belmopan at the Independence Hill. The first leg of the ride will be from Belmopan to St Margaret's Village. The second will start on Saturday morning from St Margaret's Village to the Cultural Capital, Dangriga.
Jerome Flores is no stranger to nation and is known for his determination to make his life count after he was paralyzed from the waist down. The paralysis occured from a fall in march of, 2003. Jerome was elected president of the Belize Assembly for Persons with diverse Abilities and this year Jerome is riding under theme “Reef Ride”. After much difficulties in receiving sponsorship – Oceana has offered to sponsor Jerome’s ride. Jerome explains.
Jerome Flores, Presiden, Belize Assembly for Persons with Diverse Abilities I support OCEANA in it, because the ocean and the barrier reef is what Belize is all about. Listening to them and what they are trying to do to prevent certain things from happening, I support them with what they are doing and their awareness. The first day, on the 18th which is Friday coming, it will start from the Independence Plaza and we will start at 6:00 – 6:30; we want to start as soon as possible, because it’s much harder to ride in the sun. We will go around the Ring Road and we will continue on to the Hummingbird Highway and we will stop at St. Margaret’s where Over the Top Restaurant. On the second day which is the 19th, we will start from there where we stopped at 7:00 and we will continue on to Dangriga. We would really love for riders to support us with this ride to bring awareness of person living with disabilities.
Vice President for Oceana – Audrey Matura says that the activity is part of Oceana’s anniversary.
Audrey Matura, Vice President. OCEANA What happened was that Mr. Flores approached us to see if we would sponsor his ride because he was not getting any responses from other people. We were very glad to do it, because as we spoke we realized that we had a lot in common. He is trying to bring attention to a very important national issue and that is people living with disabilities. Sometimes we go about pretending that it could not happen to us. He had the use of all his facilities and he had an accident and now he is a paraplegic and he realizes that he needs to speak up for people. When we spoke and we realized that he needed attention for that, we said that we would lend ourselves and support him, but he also was willing to support our issue, which is the issue of a ban against offshore drilling and he also sees it as a national issue and an issue that would impact the livelihood of people with disabilities, because as he rightly recognizes that while OCEANA is not against drilling and the petroleum on a whole, we do not want offshore drilling and drilling in our national parks.
Accompanying Jerome will be Adrian Camara. They will ride from Belmopan to Dangriga this November 18th and 19th to highlight the threat of offshore drilling to Belize’s Barrier Reef. The two will leave Indepence Hill in Belmopan City after 6am on Friday morning and will ride onward to their halfway mark just past the “Over the top restaurant” on the Hummingbird highway. On Saturday they will complete the journey to Dangriga, to coincide with the Garifuna settlement day celebrations. If you wish to make financial contributions to BAPTDA you can do so by making your deposits to bank account number 10202430 – at the First Caribbean Bank.
Jerome Flores, the inspiring paraplegic cyclist who embarks on the Reef Ride from Belmopan to Dangriga tomorrow, conveyed the sad news this afternoon that his riding partner, Adrian Camara, will be unable to accompany him on this latest leg of his ride across Belize. Adrian Camara, who was born without legs, accompanied Jerome for rides in 2009 & 2010. But this week, he has had to seek urgent medical attention in Mexico due to bladder and lung infections. Meanwhile, Jerome Flores says he is now even more motivated to succeed for his friend. The Reef Ride is aimed at bringing awareness of and generate funds for the Belize Assembly for Persons With Diverse Abilities and to bring attention to the call for a ban on offshore oil drilling. The ride starts tomorrow, Friday November 18th in front of the National Assembly Building in Belmopan and ends November 19th in Dangriga, where Jerome plans to participate in the Garifuna Settlement Day Parade.
Belizean paraplegic Jerome Flores completed the first leg of his ride to Dangriga in record time this morning. Under the sponsorship of Oceana-Belize, Flores and a group of nine riders set out early this morning from in front of the National Assembly building and rode to St. Margaret’s Village on the Hummingbird Highway. Audrey Matura Shepherd is the vice president of Oceana-Belize.
Audrey Matura Shepherd – Vice President, Oceana Belize
“It went excellent we started at 7 in front of the National Assembly. We chose the National Assembly because that is the seat of power, that is where decisions are made, that is where laws are made. Interestingly Jerome made it in two hours and ten minutes, he reached over the top at nine ten, I reached half hour later. The beautiful thing is the weather was great, it was not hot and sunny, it was cool and cloudy and that made it possible for him to even perform better because the heat would have really affected him a lot. It went excellently we got a lot of support, the people came out and cheered us on when we started and along the way there was a lot of encouragement as well so now we are calling on people to please donate to this cause.”
Fellow rider Adrian Camara could not make today’s ride along with Flores because he is seeking medical treatment. Flores for his part says that he is encouraged by the first leg of the ride and looks forward to the second part on Saturday.
Jerome Flores – Rider
“Ah, it was wonderful. I always train but with the support and everyone around me we did a really good time, we did half hour earlier, we did it in two hours time. I trained in the hills with the help of Oceana we came into the hills and practiced the same route so I had an idea of where I am going. At the beginning tomorrow it will be challenging. It will be three or four mountains back to back but after that it will level off. As we all know it is a cause and if you want to donate anything BAPDA has an account at First Caribbean Bank the number is 10202430 and if anyone wants to ride since tomorrow is a holiday we will really appreciate it. We leave from St. Margaret’s at seven o’clock tomorrow morning and head into Dangriga. We did good time today so we will definitely do good time tomorrow so we are calling on anyone who wants to support, we will really appreciate it.”
Flores plans on arriving in Dangriga in time to take part in Garifuna Settlement Day activities.
Jerome Flores today started another leg of his amazing awareness-raising rides. Amazing because he has no use of his legs - but his powerful arms and his self-styled trike have taken him on rides all across Belize.
Last year he went from Belize City to Cayo - a 74 mile span. This year he's chosen a much more difficult 50 mile stretch: Belmopan to Dangriga.
It takes him through the hills and valleys of the Hummingbird Highway - a picturesque but punishing route if you're powering yourself.
He's doing it in two days and we caught the first half today:
Monica Bodden Reporting
Jerome Flores arrived at Independence Hill in Belmopan this morning at 6:30 - ready for the ride and not the least bit nervous.
Jerome Flores - Ride for the Reef "I've been around so much and with the media; I am not affraid, and I don't feel nervous or anything like that. I'm just ready; that's all."
He will ride this customized 7 speed recumbent trike that he engineered and built himself. It has a futuristic profile, and is made of a lightweight aluminum frame.
It is outfitted with hand operated gears and everything to make this seasoned road runner comfortable and efficient.
Jerome Flores "I'm just going in there and on the hills in the upside. It's going to be challenging, but I have the team that will there to support me if I need any help. I'll just go and have fun. I just want everyone to be careful, and have a nice day."
Monica Bodden "I see that you have a big team support. Tell us a little bit about that."
Jerome Flores "It's my immediately family - my mom, my brother, friends, my brother-in-law, and my sisters. They're there to support me with drinks whenever I need."
Monica Bodden "The first leg of the ride is from Belmopan to where?"
Jerome Flores "It's from here right now, and we'll head up to St. Margaret's Village."
Monica Bodden "Have you managed to estimate a time?"
Jerome Flores "When I was training, I would say about maybe 2 hours; it may be a little bit more. It all depends, but as you can see, the weather is very cool. So, once my body keeps cool, maybe we can get in a little bit quicker."
At about 7 he sped down independence Hill - out on to the long road towards Dangriga.
In the first few miles we saw him laboring on the steep inclines as maximum effort was required to power over the top of the sweeping hills of the Hummingbird.
It got so strenuous t times that he had to get a gentle helping hand from one of the members of his team.
While his twin brother fed him water.
Jerome Flores "I'll be riding definitely for everyone - all those disabled persons will be with me today, so i'll definitely pull through."
The down hills though, were a breeze as he raced down those at high speed. On average his speed was just above 10 miles per hour.
This morning's ride finished at 9:15 in St Margaret's village at Over the Top. Flores rode 25 miles in about 2 hours.
OCEANA Vice President Audrey Matura Shepherd needed a little more than that as she visibly labored on the road, but did not give up.
But this first 25 miles was the easy part. Tomorrow he must go over Cisco Hill which is the roughest part of the ride.
Jerome Flores "Tomorrow is the challenging one at Cisco Hill, so I'll be worrying about that tomorrow. I won't worry about that today. Those who would like to join in may do so tomorrow. If they want to ride they can do so. If they want to to give donations - any support financially - BAPDA - that's Belize Assembly for Persons with Diverse Abilities has account at First Caribbean Bank."
Tomorrow's ride starts at 7:00 and he expects to ride into Dangriga to catch the celebration in progress...
Press Release – Oceana – November 21, 2011 - Paraplegic cyclist Jerome Flores completed his two-day ride from Belmopan to Dangriga in record time. Jerome had estimated the ride to take him 6 hours total but in fact he finished in a record 5 hours 10 minutes. Jerome describes his Garifuna Settlement Day Reef Ride as “Amazing, a wonderful experience and a great success!”
Seven other cyclists, including Oceana’s own Audrey Matura-Shepherd, accompanied Jerome on the Ride’s first leg last Friday from in front in of the National Assembly Building to St. Margaret Village on the Hummingbird Highway. That leg took 2 hours 10 minutes, not the projected 2½ hours.
On Saturday, 10 cyclists joined Jerome as he rode from St. Margaret Village to Dangriga in 3 hours, not the estimated 3½ hours. Among those keenly following the Reef Ride was Hattiville Resident Shaphan “Bala” Domingo, who lost his legs 2 years ago after being shot. Bala has been so inspired by Jerome he hopes to ride alongside him next year, when the next segment of his ride across Belize takes him from Dangriga to Punta Gorda Town. Bala is seeking assistance to get a trike similar to Jerome’s.
Jerome became a paraplegic over 8 years ago as a result of an accident and has since sought to highlight the plight of people living with diverse abilities. The Reef Ride primarily aimed to bring awareness of and generate funds for the Belize Assembly for Person with Diverse Abilities (BAPDA), Jerome’s favorite charity, which he helped found. In response to his call for financial support, many people approached him to make donations, have their pictures taken and commend his efforts to bring awareness to the plight of adults with diverse abilities.
As OCEANA IN BELIZE sponsored the Reef Ride, it also brought attention to the call for a ban on offshore oil drilling due to its threat to Belize’s marine resources. The sponsorship of the Ride was also OCEANA’s was of participating in celebrations for Garifuna Settlement Day
BAPDA has a target of raising $20,000.00 by year’s end. Contributions can be made to BAPDA’s First Caribbean Bank Account #10202430. Some $1,200.00 has been raised to date, but the public’s support is needed to meet Jerome’s target.
Jerome has expressed great appreciation for the very warm reception he got en route and in Dangriga as he and his support crew took part in the Garifuna Settlement Day Parade. In an update on Adrian Camara, who accompanied Jerome in rides in 2009 & 2010 and had planned to join him again on the Reef Ride but could not due to health issues, Jerome reports that Adrian is doing much better.
With Herculean effort, Jerome Flores wrapped up his two-day ride from Belmopan to Dangriga in record time. He he finished in a combined 5 hours 10 minutes; Jerome had estimated the ride would take him 6 hours total.
On Saturday, he was accompanied by 10 cyclists as he rode from St. Margaret Village to Dangriga in 3 hours.
So he made it across the treacherous CISCO Hill and rode into Dangriga in good time for the nineteenth festivities. He told OCEANA's camera that he felt it was worthwhile.
Audrey Matura Shepherd, VP OCEANA Belize "So Jerome, how do you feel now?"
Jerome Flores - Ride for the Reef "I feel wonderful. I feel excited, I feel happy. I love the support along the way and I love my team - the OCEANA team for supporting. I just want to stop right now. I feel so excited. Thanks very much."
Audrey Matura Shepherd "So you are going to do the parade now?"
Jerome Flores - Ride for the Reef "Yes I am going to participate with the Garinagu brothers and sisters in this parade here, so let's come together to support each other."
Audrey Matura Shepherd "Very good. Any message to the people of this country?"
Jerome Flores - Ride for the Reef "I just want to say whatever support you want to give - the ride is over but you can still give contributions to the organization, our disable people really need that financial help. So we would really appreciate any help you can give. Thanks very much."
Jerome and his crew crew still took part in the Garifuna Settlement Day Parade.
Contributions can be made to BAPDA's First Caribbean Bank Account #10202430. Some $1,200.00 has been raised to date, but the public's support is needed to meet Jerome's target of twenty thousand dollars.
Jerome Flores completes historic Ride for the Reef
Jerome Flores, a cyclist with diverse abilities, got a very warm reception on his historic ride from Belmopan to Dangriga which he undertook to raise awareness about the Barrier reef, and that it should not be endangered by offshore drilling.
He, along with 10 other cyclists and his support crew, arrived in Dangriga just three hours after they had started in St. Margaret’s Village on Saturday morning, November 19, shaving 20 minutes off his estimated time of arrival, and they were in time to participate in the Garifuna Settlement Day Parade.
Oceana Belize has been sponsoring Jerome in his training, so Oceana’s Executive Director Audrey Matura-Shepherd and five other cyclists accompanied Jerome on the first leg last Friday, November 18. Former Belmopan Mayor Anthony Chanona was on hand to present Jerome with a cheque as he began his ride from the foot of the steps of the National Assembly Building to St. Margaret Village on the Hummingbird Highway, which Jerome completed in only two hours 10 minutes, shaving 20 minutes off his E.T.A.
Jerome’s cause is to raise funds for the Belize Association of Persons with Diverse Abilities (BAPDA), and so far he has raised $1,200. But he is calling on the public’s support to reach his target of raising $20,000 for the BAPDA by year’s end. Contributions can be made to BAPDA’s First Caribbean Bank Account #10202430.
Adrian Camara, another cyclist with diverse abilities who accompanied Jerome in rides in 2009 and 2010, was unable to join him for the Reef Ride because of health issues, but latest reports are that Adrian is doing much better.
Jerome described his Reef Ride as “Amazing, a wonderful experience and a great success!”, especially since he was able to complete the ride 50 minutes less than the time he had estimated.
Shaphan “Bala” Domingo of Hattieville, who lost his legs 2 years ago after being shot, was among those who followed Jerome’s Reef Ride. Jerome has so inspired Shaphan, that hopes to ride alongside him next year, when Jerome takes on the Southern highway for an even more grueling ride from Dangriga to Punta Gorda Town. Bala is seeking assistance to get a tricycle similar to the ones Jerome and Adrian have built for themselves.
Jerome has set no date yet for when he will begin this ride, as he is presently in training and will not attempt it until he feels he is ready.
My name is Jerome Flores, and thanks to the effective assistance of many, many compassionate people and supportive organizations, I was able to complete the most difficult segment – Belmopan to Dangriga - of my “Ride across Belize.” I would be pleased if you would allow me to publicly express my most heartfelt thanks through your medium, to all those individuals and organizations that supported my efforts.
Many thanks to all who contributed financially to make my ride a success, and especially all who contributed with words of prayer, encouragement, and applause. Particularly I say thanks to my main sponsor - Oceana in Belize, my supporting team and all the accompanying riders.
I specifically have to give much credit to the media houses across Belize who gave so much positive and extended coverage to my accomplishment. Each and every professional journalist, reporter, and cameraman did a wonderful job in sharing my story with all Belizeans.
Looking forward to next year, my goal is to complete the last stage from Dangriga to Punta Gorda Town, a feat which should be a historic achievement, and also what I hope will inspire people with diverse abilities nationwide.
I encourage all Belizeans from all walks of life - never give up, reach for your goals!