- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 2, 2014

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - For months, Ellwood “Woody” Allen, of West Oak Lane, cycled along Martin Luther King Drive toward a renewed sense of independence.

The Vietnam-era veteran lost a leg two years ago after a toxic infection. Riding helps him cope, but he has to borrow the hand cycle that now serves as his wheels.

On Tuesday, the Disabled American Veterans, Collegeville Chapter No. 25, made sure Allen had a set of his own.

The group donated a custom-built hand cycle to Allen as part of a chapter project aimed at helping disabled veterans adjust. Allen, a retired postal worker who most recently worked at Wawa, will ride the new “trike” and attempt to win a race - more or less.

Allen has entered the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, scheduled Aug. 12-17 in Philadelphia and South Jersey. Allen hopes to race to victory, which for him means “not finishing last.”

“The fact that they were willing to help somebody, I hate to say I feel emotional, because we’re grown men and we’re not supposed to,” Allen said after receiving the bright-red trike.

The veterans group presented the cycle to Allen at Conicelli Hyundai in Conshohocken before a gathering of about 30 people. The car dealership was a major sponsor of the Collegeville chapter’s annual September golf outing, which raised funds for the hand-cycle project.

The trike donation is the first in what the chapter hopes will be an annual initiative.

“It gives you mobility, hand-eye coordination, and it gets you outside and meeting people,” said Bill “Pinky” Pinkerton, a member of the Collegeville chapter who helped spearhead the effort. “After trauma, you need to get out.”

Allen spent much of his time in the Army helping other vets cope. Stationed at Fort Benning, Ga., Allen was a behavioral-science specialist and worked with veterans coming home from Vietnam.

After he was discharged, Allen got married and worked as a drug counselor, EMT, and, most recently, making hoagies at Wawa.

“I woke up one morning with cramps in my right leg,” Allen said. “I went to the VA, and they found blood clots.”

The clots were cleared, but an infection set in. Allen’s leg was amputated to the knee. He has been undergoing rehabilitation since his surgery in July 2012.

“The first thing I had to do was understand (and accept that) it wasn’t there, and once I did that, it was time to move on,” Allen said.

He was fitted for a prosthesis and started cycling after he was introduced to the sport as part of a veterans support group.

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