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Hero Walk to pass through Ligonier area this week

| Tuesday, June 18, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The PA Hero Walk, an annual 320-mile walk from Philadelphia to New Kensington that raises money for the Wounded Warrior Project, will pass through the area this week.

The walk, which is organized by the Kiski Valley Veterans and Patriots Association and began on June 9, is scheduled to arrive in Ligonier on Wednesday, then make its way from Ligonier to Blairsville on Thursday, stopping briefly in Derry at American Legion Post No. 324.

Blairsville resident Robert Nolan has been involved with the Hero Walk for the past five years and is serving as the segment general for the Ligonier-to-Blairsville portion of the trek.

“It's always been a positive experience,” Nolan said of his involvement with the event. “The people that are responsible for the organizing and the actual logistics are a lot of military veterans, a lot of ordinary people. The thing that attracted me to it, I'm a retired veteran myself, but just the people and the cause. It benefits the veterans of our country, that's the attraction to me.”

Local veterans will join the group in a parade at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in Ligonier. The Hometown Hero Walk will form at Bell Street and proceed down Main Street and end at Ligonier Agway.

When walk participants reach the end of their travels on Thursday, they'll gather along with local supporters for a Hometown Hero Walk parade through Blairsville.

The parade will start at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the corner of Market and Morrow streets, and will end at the bandstand in the Diamond intersection of West Market and Liberty streets.

“We're going to have a community band down here,” Nolan said. “There's going to be a great number of people that are going to be here to help our celebration.”

PA Hero Walk organizers were impressed last year with the reception walkers received as they entered Blairsville, Nolan said. Last year's parade in Blairsville started at 6 p.m., but this year, it will start a half hour later in hopes of attracting more attendees.

By the time the Hero Walk's “dedicated walkers” – those who started in Philadelphia and have walked the entire course – reach Blairsville, they'll be closing in on the home stretch. The walk is scheduled to conclude Saturday.

“These people have been training for this prior to the walk. Some days they'll walk 30 miles, some days they won't walk that many miles. Thursday, they're walking from Ligonier here to Blairsville, my estimate's about 18 miles or so. They'll walk to Derry first, have a short service there at the American Legion, take a little break and then come here. By the time they get here, they've walked more than 270 miles.”

The next leg of the Hero Walk spans from Blairsville to Vandergrift on Friday, with a stop at the Saltsburg Volunteer Fire Department at 1 p.m.

A large crowd is expected for the final leg of the walk, from the Allegheny Township war memorial near Allegheny Towne Center to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 92 on Wildlife Lodge Road in Lower Burrell. This last 10-mile segment is expected to begin about 7:30 a.m. Saturday and finish about 11:30 a.m., followed by a picnic at the VFW.

Anyone interested in walking on Thursday, donating to the Hero Walk or participating in the parade in Blairsville can contact Nolan at 724-840-4233 or Amanda Hudson at 724-787-6191.

Liz Hayes and Deborah A. Brehun contributed to this story. Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913 or