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Sewickley teen plans annual 5K to help comfort, heal veterans

| Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Submitted
Race Director Rob Veltre, a senior at QVHS, leads race participants to the start line for the opening ceremony at the 2013 Brave American 5K & 1 Mile Walk to benefit the Boulder Crest Retreat for Wounded Warriors.

So many people want to help wounded warriors that Rob Veltre III of Sewickley had to find more space for them at the race he's planning.

Veltre, a member of Quaker Valley High School's cross country team, is organizing the third annual Brave American 5K, set for March 8, to raise money for Boulder Crest Retreat for Military and Veteran Wellness. The retreat, which opened in September on 37 acres in Bluemont, Va., provides a no-cost getaway for injured military veterans and their families.

Last year's race drew more than 300 participants, and Veltre said he hopes for 400 this year. The starting location for the race has been changed from Sewickley Valley YMCA's Walter J. Brannon Community Activity Center to St. Stephen's Church to provide more room for the increased number of participants.

The routes also have been changed to ease traffic management.

Veltre, 18, a Quaker Valley senior and son of Delia Battista and Robert Veltre Jr. of Sewickley, first organized the race as his personal project for school. He raised $14,000 the first year and $37,000 the second to help build the $10 million retreat.

His goal this year is $50,000, which will help to subsidize veterans' visits. Programs and lodging cost $350 per day, said Amelia Pettit, assistant director for Boulder Crest.

“I thought this would never get off the ground the first year. I'm so happy it got to this point,” Veltre said.

Pettit said race proceeds help to support the “important healing taking place at Boulder Crest Retreat to wounded warrior military service members, veterans and their families.”

She said the race has become one of the retreat's most anticipated events.

“We appreciate the generosity of the race participants, sponsors and volunteers who are among many retreat supporters from Pennsylvania,” she said.

The retreat features a large communal lodge, fishing pond, archery range, hiking trails and four cabins where veterans can stay at no cost for up to two weeks to get away from their day-to-day, outpatient care cycles, spend time with family and participate in a variety of activities. Veltre's father is a member of the Boulder Crest Retreat board.

“We are extremely grateful to Rob Veltre and his family for their ongoing commitment and hard work to support Boulder Crest Retreat,” Pettit said.

Veltre said he has “been a fan of helping the troops for a few years, and this is an outlet to do that. It's such a great cause.”

Veltre, who attended the retreat's grand opening, said he was “happy and relieved that our nation's veterans now have a retreat to help them recuperate and readjust to civilian life.

The retreat is a 501(c)3 nonprofit facility, with funding and volunteer contributions coming from local and national corporations, nonprofit organizations and private citizens.

Veltr tutors as a side business, volunteers for Habitat for Humanity and World Vision and is a member of student council and National Honor Society. He said he would like a career as an aerospace engineer.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or jbarron@tribweb.com.

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