TAMPA, Fla. — When people are in need, sometimes, a hot meal goes a long way.
Operation BBQ Relief is a non-profit organization that provides food to first responders and victims of natural disasters. Since 2011, they have served three million hot meals.
The organization now is expanding to include non-disaster food help, with a new initiative being headed up by a brand-new Tampa resident.
“To put in the first lesson I learned as a Green Beret, we want to leave things better than we received it. So that’s what we are trying to do," explains retired Army Green Beret and combat-wounded amputee Jarrid "Jay" Collins.
After serving 23 years in the army, the last five as an amputee, Collins retired Dec. 1, 2018. By the start of the new year, he was on a new mission.
“Rather than taking a big vacation or laying back, I decided, let’s just get back into work," Collins said. "So I took my position as the head of non-disaster programs with Operation BBQ Relief and the next thing I know I am running, riding a bike, hand cycling across America, serving BBQ to people.”
During the "Breaking Bread Tour," Collins covered 3,000 miles and more than eight states in 50 days -- with just one leg.
“It’s just a new way to do old tricks. If you let your circumstances define who you are, you’re never going to live life to your fullest," said Collins, who is not one to let his situation deter him or slow him down. “You just put your left foot forward, and then your right foot, honestly.
"Luckily mine come off, so I can put them on, it’s a little bit easier, right?”
Based off of weather and road conditions, Collins made the determination to either bike, run, or hand cycle nearly 60 miles every single time. There were times, though, when it got tough.
“The duration of this thing is something I had to wrap my head around. The repetitive piece of doing 60 miles a day, every single day, for 50 days -- there was a little bit of a breakdown physically," Collins said.
But luckily, he was far from being alone.
Apart from an incredible support and tactical team, Collins entire family was also with him. His 7-year-old, Gabe, and 4-year-old, Colton, helped serve and run alongside dad when they could.
During the "Breaking Bread Tour," Collins and his team handed out about 80,000 meals, and their tour is not done yet. Next weekend they will be feeding the athletes and families at the Warrior Games in Tampa, a competition for wounded service members.
Organizers expect to serve 100,000 meals in total during the tour.
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