Toledo man to bike across country to end street violenceWritten by Amanda Tindall | | email@example.com
From prison to a bike ride across the country, Charles Veley has spun his life into a positive direction since his teen and young adult years on the streets.
At 5:30 a.m. June 11, Veley will begin his bike trek from Toledo to Los Angeles, California, in hopes of changing a life or two as he stops in churches and community centers to share his life’s story — a story riddled with trials along the way.
In a neighborhood filled with violence and death, Veley grew up fighting. His mother, who was a prostitute and addicted to cocaine, had a pimp who gave Veley his first gun.
“I was born in 1973. I had a father, but I never met him,” Veley said. “I ended up in the foster care system because my mom was a prostitute and on crack. We got locked in the house when she was going out to prostitute, and my aunt called children’s services. They came and kicked in the door. I use to wonder why God let me go through all these bad things. Now I get that they made me into the person I am now.”
When Veley and his siblings were placed in the foster care system, he was 8 years old. His older sister Linda Veley was 9, and stayed with their grandmother.
“I was always like the mother because I was the oldest,” Linda Veley said. “When we were separated, it was really sad. C.C. (Charles) and I were always close, but when we were separated, we just got even closer.”
A year later, Veley went to jail for the first time. After sixth grade, he dropped out of school. At 17, he went to prison for eight years on a drug charge.
“I was riding with some friends. Didn’t know where we were going. I was only 17 and didn’t realize that we were going to rob somebody. Once we got there, chaos broke out. I ended up going to prison for eight years on a gun charge.”
While in prison, Veley went through drug counseling training, received a certificate for drug counseling and earned his GED and his barber’s license.
“Prison was a good thing for me,” Veley said. “Without prison, I wouldn’t be the man I am today. It was a real form of rehabilitation. After I was there, I did go to county jail, but I never went back to prison. That just wasn’t my thing. As I grew older, I realized that jail, period, just wasn’t for me.”
He soon discovered a passion for cycling, and told his sister.
“He came over to my house,” Linda Veley said. “He said, ‘You know what? I think I’m gonna take a bike ride.’ And I said ‘A bike ride? Where you planning on going?’ My main concern was if he was going to be OK when he’s taking a bike ride that far. But what he’s doing, it’s a just cause. If you really look around, this stuff is happening every day. People being killed and murdered.”
Veley said he’s riding for three major issues — gun violence, weight loss and domestic violence. In this pursuit, he said he’s not doing it for himself, but for the city of Toledo. He said he hopes the city will get behind him and support him.
Each of the issues has influenced Veley’s life, or the lives of his family members, in some way. Charles, Linda and their mother all experienced domestic violence. But Veley said he still believes in people’s ability to change.
“There’s always someone out there who’s willing to change,” Veley said. “And you have men out there who don’t put forth the effort to try to change somebody. Maybe if I change one or two people, then they can change one or two people.”
Linda Veley claims her brother has already changed one life — her son, Christian Veley, who was killed last year, looked up to Veley and wanted to turn away from the violence and crime of the streets.
“I’m so proud of C.C.,” Veley said. “He thinks that, if he can change, others are gonna want to do more. Growing up as we did, being molested, as we both were, being in foster care, it makes other people be like, ‘Well, if someone can do something more, then I can.’”
The importance of being a father, and of taking care of kids, was something Veley said was difficult to learn after he was released from prison.
“I never met my father,” Veley said. “And that’s the thing — if I could ride across the country, he will hopefully hear my name and I would get a chance to meet him. That’s the only thing I ever wanted in life was to meet him. I’m just mad that he can’t see the type of man I am. So I want to change a life because no one ever helped me. I don’t want to see anyone else go through that same cycle. Now, in this point in my life, I feel like I can change a life or two.”
By the end of the bike ride, Veley said he plans on starting a program called the Y.E.S. Project, which stands for “Youth Excepting Society.” Through the Y.E.S. Project, he plans on continuing the mission of his bike ride, sharing his story in schools and other public forums to influence young lives for good.
“I’m on this adventure all alone,” Veley said. “I don’t know what’s ahead of me on this road, or what may come my way. But I do know that I’m going to change a life on this ride from here to there.”
Follow his trek on Twitter at @cctherider2014 or Instagram at @cctherider.