Hero Walk, parade return to Blairsville

| Thursday, June 13, 2013, 8:55 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 next week.

The walk, which is organized by the Kiski Valley Veterans and Patriots Association and began on June 9, is scheduled to 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.”

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 in will start at 6:30 p.m. 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.

Anyone interested in walking 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.

Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913 or greinbold@tribweb.com.

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