Men to walk from Erie to Ross to benefit American Diabetes Association
At 66, Vietnam War veteran Bob Mandera of McCandless no longer walks in the 100-mile trek he organizes each year to battle diabetes.
He now drives the distance.
Hauling snacks and supplies, Mandera annually staffs one of two vehicles that routinely escort walkers in the Veterans' March for Diabetes.
Each year, men of varied ages participate by walking from Erie to Ross Township — via Route 19 — to raise funds for the American Diabetes Association. They dress in red T-shirts and white caps.
This year, Mandera will accompany a handful of men from their 20s to 60s on the 35th Veterans' March for Diabetes, set for Friday, Oct. 5, to Sunday, Oct. 7.
A color guard from the Veterans of Foreign Wars West View Post 2754 will welcome marchers at 4 p.m. Sunday to the McKnight Post Office on McKnight Road in Ross.
Since 1978, the Veterans' March for Diabetes has raised nearly $2 million for the American Diabetes Association through the Veterans of Foreign Wars Department of Pennsylvania, according to Mandera.
A retired mail carrier, Mandera founded the walk after his daughter, Pam Phelan, 41, of Hampton was diagnosed with diabetes as a child. Mandera walked in the yearly event for 25 years until knee problems forced him to quit.
Participants travel about 30 miles each day, stopping for meals and lodging in area motels.
Each year, Mandera organizes the itinerary.
“It's still a lot of work, but it seems a lot easier,” Mandera said. “I call these places, like the restaurants and hotels, and they say, ‘Oh Bob, we expected your call.'”
This year, participants will set out about 7:30 a.m. Oct. 5 after an overnight stay and breakfast at the Quality Inn in Erie — courtesy of Travaglini Enterprises. A local Olive Garden will feed the men a donated premarch dinner.
“Usually, the news media from Erie meet us at the starting point,” Mandera said.
En route to the Days Inn in Meadville, participants will stop for lunch at the Factory Restaurant in Saegertown, Crawford County.
Jeff Kays, a Vietnam War Army veteran, owns the Factory Restaurant and donates the chow, “anything they want,” he said.
“I wish I could join them, but I can't walk that far,” said Kays, 66. “There are a lot of Vietnam veterans with diabetes.”
Lunch at the Rainbow Valley Restaurant in Perry Township, Mercer County, will precede the marchers' final overnight stay at the Comfort Inn in Mercer.
After breakfast in Mercer, the marchers will go to Portersville, Butler and then to Ross, after sharing lunch at McDonald's in McCandless.
This year's march will honor Eileen Paul of A.F. Paul Co. in Coraopolis, and her late sister, Eleanor Paul, “who for years upon years put together all the news releases for the walk's fundraisers,” Mandera said.
Men slated to walk in the 35th annual march include Scott McKenzie of VFW DuBois Post No. 8386; Dan Casciato of Robinson Township, Washington County; Mike Boris Jr. of McCandless; and Charlie Castelluccio of VFW Titusville Post No. 5958. Cecil Dennis of VFW Titusville Post No. 5958, also will drive an escort vehicle.
People may contribute to Mandera's fundraising efforts through October. Donations payable to the Erie Diabetes Walk may be mailed Mandera at 8884 Royal Manor Drive, Apartment 103, Allison Park, PA 15101.
Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or firstname.lastname@example.org.