On March 26, 2016, Shepherd’s Men will begin a run from Boston to Atlanta through 10 cities to benefit the SHARE Military Initiative at Atlanta’s Shepherd Center and raise awareness of the suicide epidemic plaguing veterans of the U.S. armed forces. Shepherd’s Men is a fundraising group comprised of 14 men who will make the run together, with the Army, Marine Corps and civilian population represented in their numbers. Each member of the group will complete the journey wearing a flak vest with 22 pounds of added weight and running at least 22 kilometers per day. The number 22 is symbolic and represents the average number of suicides that occur among United States veterans each day.

The group raises funds for the SHARE Military Initiative at Shepherd Center in Atlanta, GA, one of the nation’s top rehabilitation centers for spinal cord and brain injuries. Many soldiers who see combat suffer repeated neurotraumas that result in Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI). These physiological injuries are often undiagnosed and contribute to or exacerbate the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Without treating these injuries first, psychological counseling and other treatments for PTSD are rendered ineffective. The SHARE Military Initiative is a 12-week program that treats both the physiological and psychological effects of TBI and PTSD. It is primarily donor-funded and, to date, no graduate of the program has been lost to suicide.

The Shepherd’s Men will begin their 2016 journey in Boston on March 26 and end at Shepherd Center in Atlanta on April 3. Along the way, they will make stops in Newport, RI; New York, NY; Gettysburg, PA; Lynchburg, VA; Knoxville, TN; Nashville, TN; Chattanooga, TN; and Athens, GA. In each city, they will meet with veterans’ groups, VFWs, police, firemen and other local organizations to honor those who have fought for our freedom and bring attention to the combat veterans of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who need treatment.

“We plan to raise one million dollars to benefit the SHARE Military Initiative this year,” says Travis Ellis, the civilian founder of Shepherd’s Men. “The men and women returning from today’s conflicts volunteered for our country, for all of us, and they return with battle scars that need our help to heal. Too many are pushed to the margins and take their own lives while the rest of us enjoy the freedom for which these veterans fought. The physical challenge of our run is nothing compared to the challenges faced by our veterans.”

Stop in Newport RI

The group will complete the first leg of their journey on Saturday afternoon in Newport, RI, where they will be hosted overnight at the Newport Marriott. Local supporters are invited to join the runners for the last mile, and can rendezvous at the parking lot on the corner of Admiral Kalbfus Rd and Hillside Avenue in Newport, R.I.. All runners will be treated to fresh fruit smoothie sips and health bar snacks when they arrive at the harborside hotel. “We are honored to sponsor the Shepherd’s Men on this important journey,” said Walter Andrews, Newport Marriott General Manager. “Marriott is committed to serving the communities where we do business, and because the Newport community is so deeply connected to the US military, this partnership made perfect sense. We wish the Shepherd’s Men great success in their run, fundraising and awareness campaign, and we look forward to providing them with a good night’s rest!”

More Info

The SHARE Military Initiative is a primarily donor-funded program at Shepherd Center and the clients receive these services at no charge to them or their families. SHARE’s current annual fundraising need is $1,150,000. Shepherd’s Men is generously funded by corporate sponsors HD Supply, Verizon Wireless, Samuel Adams Boston Brewery, SA White Oil Co., Superior Plumbing, Georgia Power, First Landmark Bank, Community and Southern Bank, Cumberland Diamond Exchange and CAL Lighting as well as various Marine Corps League Detachments, American Legion Posts, and other local and national businesses. To become a sponsor, please visit shepherdsmen.com to make your tax-deductible donation today.

The 2016 Shepherd’s Men will run the longest distance with their largest group since the group’s inception in 2013. Previous runs traveled from Atlanta, GA to Arlington, VA, in 2014 and New York City to Atlanta, GA in 2015. The organization includes graduates of the SHARE Military Initiative as well as active duty military personnel, veterans and one civilian, all of whom who take personal leave to participate in the journey. To learn more about the SHARE Military Initiative, Shepherd’s Men or Shepherd Center, see bios of the men making the run, or to make a donation, visit shepherdsmen.com.

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Ryan M. Belmore

Ryan M. Belmore is the Owner & Publisher of What's Up Newp. Ryan is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers. Send questions, tips, and story ideas to Ryan@whatsupnewp.com.