Rucking for the PA Wounded Warriors

Arriving in Ohiopyle are, from left, John Malone of Connellsville, Brandon Taylor of Uniontown, Adam Keefer of Confluence, Brian Hart of McMurray and Patrick Richter of Uniontown. The men sought out sponsorships and went on a 26-mile journey on the Great Allegheny Passage to raise money for the Pennsylvania Wounded Warriors.

Although the rain was coming down, the spirits were going up for a group of local men who took part in the inaugural Ruck-A-Thon to raise money for wounded veterans.

Two months ago, friends Patrick Richter of Uniontown and John Malone of Connellsville set a goal to start working out. The men thought about walking in the Pittsburgh Marathon, but hit a snag.

“You can’t walk the Pittsburgh Marathon,” Richter said, adding that there’s no walking division for the marathon because it would take too long.

They decided to create their own walking marathon on the Great Allegheny Passage, which they ultimately turned into a fundraiser.

Richter said he recalled a golf outing as a fundraiser for the Pennsylvania Wounded Warriors Inc., an independent, statewide nonprofit organization providing support to Pennsylvania’s wounded warriors, veterans in crisis and their families.

“It’s a good group. It’s not affiliated with the national group, and it’s all Pennsylvania – any branch of the military,” Richter said, adding that Malone was on board, and they grabbed two others, Brian Hart of McMurray and Brandon Taylor of Uniontown, to be involved in not a walk, but a ruck.

A ruck is basically a walk while being self-supported with a backpack.

They planned to ruck 26.2 miles on the GAP trail from Confluence to Connellsville, starting out at 6 a.m. May 13. Prior to that, the men sought sponsorships to reach their goal of $5,000.

“We then raised it to $10,000,” Richter said during a break from the ruck in Ohiopyle, adding that he believed the total was around $12,500 at that time. The final amount raised was not available as of press time.

The day of the ruck, the four men were met with rain that lasted throughout the day, but the wet conditions didn’t dampen their spirits.

“Our morale is super high,” said Hart. “We even made the comment that we feel like we’re getting more energetic as we go, kind of in a weird way.”

Hart said he believed it was from mutual support of his fellow travelers and an addition to their group – Adam Keefer, of Confluence, a veteran who joined up with the men in Ohiopyle.

“I just heard about it ... and I just wanted to come out and show my support,” Keefer said. “As a wounded veteran, I really appreciate what you guys are doing.”

Hart said Keefer inspired the group, who all appreciated what Keefer had done by serving the country.

“I think it’s nice that they’re doing it for him and he’s getting to show his support for them,” said Kim Brown, Richter’s wife. “I think (Keefer) being here truly puts this all together – it comes full circle.”

Since they surpassed their fundraising goal, the inaugural group for the Ruck-A-Thon plan to do the event next year. They hope to attract more participants, veterans and active military to be involved and help spread the word.

“I think we should raise the bar,” Malone said. “We might alternate the route a little bit, but we definitely want to do it bigger and better next year.”

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