A Labor of Love for Wounded Warriors
October 29, 2012
By Paul Helou
In the true spirit of giving, collaboration and community in service of a greater good, nearly 2000 runners and walkers gathered at Babylon Town Hall on October 20th for the 5th Annual Long Island Run for the Warriors – a fundraising event honoring and supporting our nation’s soldiers who were wounded or died in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as their families.
Even the weather bestowed its blessing as the crisp morning air gave way to a perfect, warm autumn day. From the opening ceremony, to the 10K, 5K, and 1-mile runs, to the closing remarks, selfless enthusiasm and generosity were clearly palpable among the participants, which included wounded service members and veterans, families of the fallen, local government officials, and many from within the community.
“This is not a political event. This is not a union event. This is a community event,” commented Race Director Jack Caffey, Jr., an area representative director for Local 338. “There’s no agenda but to get out here and support the military, the wounded service members, their families, and the families of the fallen.”
In addition to sponsorship, Local 338 donates a vast amount of time and expertise to this event. The fact that preparation begins five to six months in advance, with staff arriving before 6 a.m. on the day of the race, lends fresh meaning to the well-worn phrase “labor of love.”
As John Durso, President of the Long Island Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, noted: “This has been the biggest turn out in terms of runners, and it has raised the most amount of money of the five years so far. It will continue to grow because it’s a great way to say thank you. When you see the wounded veterans that are here it just touches your heart, it touches your soul. This is what Labor does. It’s who we are as an organization. 338 is extremely proud to be part of this endeavor.”
Indeed, among the many extraordinary people participating in the day, two remarkable individuals stood out. Using a high-tech exoskeleton that allows her to leave her wheelchair, Theresa Hannigan, a former Army sergeant who served during the Vietnam era, and paraplegic Robert Woo were able to participate thanks to their ReWalk devices — commercial robotic legs that allow paralyzed users to stand up and walk. Surrounded by encouraging family, friends, and supporters, the two steadily made their way on the 1-mile run, each step a victory in and of itself.
As one of the many organizations represented at the event, the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine – which welcomes students from the Association for Military Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons – raised over $3,500. Dan Rausa, a second year medical student who organized the school’s contingent of 47 runners, noted, “We wanted to build awareness in our school in order to make the veterans and their families feel welcome.”
All proceeds from the race benefited Hope for the Warriors, a national nonprofit organization that assists combat wounded service members, their families, and families of the fallen. The mission of the organization is to enhance quality of life for U.S. service members and their families nationwide who have been adversely affected by injuries or death in the line of duty.
“It’s a true team effort,” added Mr. Caffey. “Our military is helping us, so this is how we give back. This is America at its best – the community working together.”