Hero Walk will return to Blairsville to benefit veterans
Blairsville's annual Hometown Hero Walk will be held at 6:30 p.m. June 26 as part of the 2014 PA Hero Walk.
Blairsville resident Bob Nolan has organized the veterans' charity event and parade in Blairsville for the past several years. He'll continue that role this year while also, for the first time, taking part as a walker in the full 320-mile PA Hero Walk that began June 15 in Philadelphia and is scheduled to conclude June 28 in New Kensington.
“Now that I‘m retired, I have the opportunity to do that, and I'm happy to do it,” Nolan said of the two-week Hero Walk itinerary. “It's a lot of fun.”
Interviewed via cell phone Monday, while on the road between Paoli and Coatesville, Nolan said he was one of a baker's dozen of participating walkers at that time, but he added that more are expected to join the effort as the group heads west — mostly along Route 30.
“We'll get a few people at the Flight 93 Memorial east of Stoystown and we'll get some more people joining in Blairsville,” he said.
In addition to Villanova University, which provided overnight accommodations for walk participants, sponsors of the Hero Walk event include the Veterans Home Association of New Florence, the American Legion Riders, Rosebud Mining Co. and Trib Total Media. The Kiski Valley Veterans and Patriots Association is the primary organization behind the event.
Other sponsors, including veterans' organizations in communities along the route, have signed on for various daily legs of the event. Individual walkers have been asked to obtain pledges for additional donations from sponsors.
Walkers also typically have encouraged donations from those they encounter along the route.
“People are generous,” Nolan said, noting passersby also have shown their support in other ways.
“People on the highway are clapping, beeping their horns,” he said. “We passed a family picnic, and they came to the road and were clapping. It makes you proud.”
In past years, the PA Hero Walk and the affiliated Blairsville Hometown Hero Walk have donated all fundraising proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project, an organization that provides services to wounded military service members across the country.
In this, the event's sixth year, Nolan said, organizers will divide funds among several other organizations to ensure that money benefits Pennsylvania veterans.
According to Nolan, this year's beneficiaries include the Pennsylvania chapter of Operation Homefront, as well as the Mechling-Shakley Veterans Center in Cowansville, the Veterans Multi-Service Center in Philadelphia, Vets 4 Veterans, the Semper Fi Odyssey program at the Outdoor Odyssey camp in Boswell and the Wounded Warrior Patrol (not affiliated with the Wounded Warrior Project), a nonprofit whose activities have included organizing ski outings for wounded veterans at Seven Springs Mountain Resort.
On June 25, Nolan and other Hero Walk participants are expected to arrive at American Legion Post 267 in Ligonier, via Shanksville and Stoystown in Somerset County. Ligonier will stage its own Hometown Hero Parade at 6 p.m. that day.
On June 26, in a 16-mile leg sponsored by the Saltsburg Volunteer Fire Department and organized by Nolan, the walkers will head out of Ligonier on Route 30 and then turn north on Route 217, arriving in Blairsville about 3 p.m.
According to Nolan, additional participants can join the walk just for the Blairsville Hometown Hero event — for a $20 donation, which also includes an event T-shirt.
Participants will gather at about 2:30 p.m. along Route 217 south of Blairsville, at the Cokeville Produce market near the intersection of Pizza Barn Road. At about 3 p.m., police will escort the walkers into town along South Walnut Street, after which the participants will gather in the parking lot of the Blairsville fire hall at North Spring and West Campbell streets.
Walk participants also will have an opportunity to take part in a parade along Blairsville's Market Street that day. Walkers and other local marching units will form beginning at 5 p.m. in the parking lot of the newly opened Tractor Supply store at Market and Morrow streets. Local veterans are among those expected to participate.
At 6:30 p.m., the parade will head west on Market to the bandstand at Liberty Street, where presentations by speakers and music are to be featured. Afterward, the Blairsville Elks social hall will play host to an open house for the walk and parade participants.
On June 27, Hero Walk participants will continue another 25 miles, leaving Blairsville at 8 a.m., stopping in Saltsburg at about 1 p.m. and arriving at 7 p.m. at American Legion Post 114 in Vandergrift. This segment will include an additional Hometown Hero Walk, beginning at 6 p.m. at the Apollo Bridge and concluding at the Casino Theater in Vandergrift.
The 320-mile charity trek will conclude on June 28, with a final Hometown Hero Walk, from the Allegheny Township War Memorial to VFW Post 92 in Lower Burrell.
For more information, visit www.paherowalk.org.
Jeff Himler is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2910 or email@example.com.