My birthday falls on Nov. 11, Veteran’s Day. I did not serve in the military; however, my grandfather was a veteran, and a few of my cousins were also in the military. It weighed on me to be focusing on my own party celebrations instead of honoring our heroes, their sacrifices and the freedoms I enjoy, thanks to their service. So I decided to do something different and pay tribute to veterans with a charity run event.
I have run many races, but this was my first endeavor into directing a race. My friend, Run Jodi, recommended I create an intimate event. So I developed Run4Vets – an invitation-only, half-marathon course with ocean views along the new Courtney Campbell Causeway Trail. A donation of $22 was encouraged to commemorate the date, 11/11. I invited my local running friends, fellow St. Petersburg College runners and included a virtual option to incorporate friends and family everywhere.
My next step was to select a Run4Vets beneficiary. I contacted several organizations, yet never received a call back. I was so surprised by the lack of response. I was offering an estimated $1,000 donation and asking for nothing in return. FREE MONEY and…crickets. I decided to visit the Veteran’s Office at SPC’s Clearwater Campus for some suggestions. Larry Hobbs and Caleb pointed me in the direction of Ride2Recovery, a national organization that raises awareness of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among veterans and first responders by building and donating adaptive bikes and raising funds for the cause.
I could not believe my luck – they were right down the hall! I contacted the R2R Project Hero Coordinator, Mitch Lee, and he immediately called me back—success! In addition to being our run charity partner, Mitch and I brainstormed ways to maximize the donation. With ties to Raytheon, Mitch, Kelly McDonald (R2R volunteer and Raytheon employee) and I were able to work with SPC to secure a charity match.
Blessed with amazing, generous friends and family, 50 people committed to run/walk 13.1 miles, and together we raised $1,400! Raytheon provided the match and generously added to the fund, bringing our total contribution to $13,000! Run4Vets funds will be used to purchase a bike and spare parts. Raytheon funds support three student veteran scholarships that include volunteer hours in the R2R Cycling Center at the SPC Clearwater campus.
Jill Brown is an Instructional Designer at St. Petersburg College.