Fundraiser planned in Murrysville to aid veterans group
Al Pulice has walked the state from end to end with the PA Hero Walk, but this weekend he'll stay closer to home, holding a version of the event in his hometown.
The inaugural Murrysville Hometown Hero Walk on Saturday will span the community from west to east. Proceeds benefit the Wounded Warrior Project, which helps wounded service members and informs the public about their needs.
“The (Project's) logo is a soldier carrying a soldier,” Pulice said. “The whole philosophy of this is getting service members with others ... and back into the community. The main goal of Wounded Warrior Project is to have a healthy — mentally and physically — community of military.”
Among several veterans who will participate is 47-year-old Brian Coutch of New Kensington, an Army engineer who served 22 years in the military, including five tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said he experienced traumatic brain injury from “too many explosions” and a thumb injury when he was shot in the hand.
In 2008, the Wounded Warrior Project helped Coutch find and buy a dog to monitor his heart and to pick up items that he can't because of his hand injury.
For several years, Coutch has participated in the state Hero Walk and said the support he sees is “amazing.”
“I'm kind of speechless (and) in awe of all these people that want to help us,” he said. “It's just amazing how patriotic how people are today. It's a phenomenal feeling.”
Rob Hunter, recreation director in Murrysville, said he hopes to welcome between 500 and 1,000 residents to the event “to pay tribute to the veterans (and) to support the veterans and the wounded warriors.”
The municipality is teaming up with the PA Hero Walk group to host the walk, which has several phases.
• The first section will begin at the west end of the municipality and run from the parking lot of Ladd Wagner's insurance office, 3700 Old William Penn Highway, to the Franklin Regional High School football field. The group will depart at 9 a.m. for the 2.2-mile walk.
• The second leg will begin from the east at Tractor Supply Co. on Manor Road to the football field. The group will depart for the 5.5-mile trek at 8 a.m.
• Both groups will meet up with others at the high school field for a 3.9-mile walk to Murrysville Community Park. That walk will depart about 10 a.m. Participants who want a shorter trip can meet at the intersection of Sinan Farm Drive and Evans Road at 11:30 a.m. and continue about a mile to the park with the group.
Participants will meet at Murrysville Community Park by noon for a ceremony, games, food, prizes, music and a softball tournament for veterans.
“It's a family-friendly walk,” Hunter said, “so your kids are more than welcome to attend.”
So far this year, Pulice and his Hero Walk team have raised $340,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project, eclipsing their $125,000 total last year, which made them the Project's No. 1 fundraising group in the country in 2012.
Since beginning the Hero Walk in 2009, Pulice estimates raising about $600,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project, which helps soldiers with job placement and lobbies Congress for benefits, among other programs.
Pulice was inspired to start the annual walk after meeting a wounded veteran. Since then, smaller versions of the walk have been staged in towns across the state, and the idea surfaced to host one in Murrysville.
Pulice wants local wounded service members and their families to know that the Wounded Warrior Project can help.
“When you're helping a soldier, you're really helping the community,” Pulice said. “The benefit of this thing ... is getting them out with other injured service members.”
Participants can register on site the day of the event about 8:30 a.m. at the high school or at Sinan Farm Drive at 10:30 a.m., Pulice said.
A shuttle will run from Murrysville Community Park to the high school for those who would like to park at the event's end point. Road closures along the route will be in effect.
Walkers who donate or raise at least $20 will receive a Hero Walk T-shirt.
Rossilynne Skena is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6646 or firstname.lastname@example.org.