On April 1, 2018, Vance Villarreal embarked on the journey of a lifetime. He set out to ride his bicycle, alone, from Virginia to California. After serving 11 years in the US Navy, he wanted to do something big for a good cause.
Vance was born and raised in San Antonio where he attended TMI Episcopal School of Texas before he set off to the US Naval Academy. In 2007, he was officially commissioned into the United States Navy as a Surface Warfare Officer. His last tour of duty took him to Norfolk, VA. This is where he began to wonder what life after the military would bring. “I knew that I would need to get a job in the civilian world soon. But before taking that next step I wanted to pause and do something worthwhile,” Vance said.
It was a conversation with his dad that sparked the idea of honoring his late mother’s legacy. Vance’s mother, Patty Villarreal was a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and served on the Board of Directors for Any Baby Can of San Antonio, a nonprofit that helps families raising children with special needs. Vance wanted to ride his bike across the US to raise money for the nonprofit his mother had loved. “We were skeptical at first. It seemed like such a huge undertaking and we worried about his safety. But once we met Vance, we were 100% on board,” said Hugo Hernandez, CEO of Any Baby Can of San Antonio.
On the morning of April 1, 2018, Vance ceremoniously placed his back tire in the Atlantic Ocean in Virginia Beach, VA and set off on his two-month adventure to San Diego, CA.
When Vance made it to San Antonio he had the opportunity to visit Any Baby Can and talk to the staff. Vance told them, “This trip and what you guys do, has really changed my perspective on life and what it means to care for other people. You all are the true heroes doing all you do for these families. I’m just a guy riding a bike.”
On May 24, 2018, Vance completed his journey. And just as he had done two months earlier, Vance carried his bike into the ocean. This time he was walking into the Pacific Ocean. When asked what this journey has been like, Vance said, “It hasn’t been easy. But it’s not just cycling, it’s life. You got to take it a day at a time. And some days, GPS takes you the wrong way and you have to backtrack. Things aren’t always going to go your way. But you get back up the next day and do it all over again.”
Any Baby Can wants to continue to honor Patty’s legacy. The money that Vance has raised will be used to start “Patty’s Angel Fund.” This fund will help families with immediate tangible needs as they await further assistance. If you’d like to support Patty’s Angel Fund and Any Baby Can, you can donate here.