Ocean City's fourth annual Walk for the Wounded event to benefit our nation's wounded veterans and their families will take place this Saturday, Sept. 29, on the Ocean City Boardwalk.
The annual event raises money to benefit Operation First Response, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing financial and emotional support for wounded soldiers returning from overseas.
Ocean City Home Bank is its primary sponsor, spearheaded by the company's president and chief executive officer Steve Brady. Co-sponsors include some regional basketball icons - St. Joseph's University men's coach Paul Martelli, Temple University men's coach Fran Dunphy, former Villanova coach Steve Lappas and former NBA player and coach and Holy Spirit legend Chris Ford - as well as the Ocean City Fire Department.
This is the first year the Ocean City Fire Department is sponsoring the walk. Last year, a crew of Ocean City firefighters participated in the three-mile Walk for the Wounded while wearing their full turnout gear. What they saw last year solidified their desire to do more this year, said Capt. Steven Constantino.
"After meeting a bunch of the kids who came home wounded and are utilizing the services of Operation First Response, we knew we had to do more," Constantino said.
He said about one-fifth of Ocean City's firefighters have former military experience, including two of the firefighters in his four-person crew: Tim Quinn, a veteran of the Navy, and Wyatt Clevenger, a former Marine sniper.
Clevenger spoke at a media conference held earlier this summer to kick off the fundraising efforts for the walk. He said that, as a war veteran, he feels an emotional connection to these men and women. He understands what they are going through and is honored to help them.
"I've been through it," Clevenger said at the media conference. "I know what it's like, and it's tough. They want to get an education, they want to have a job, they want to put food on their table and provide for their families, and a lot of them can't do it."
Since the beginning of the summer, members of the OCFD have been selling $5 for Freedom stickers to benefit and bring awareness to Operation First Response and the Walk for the Wounded.
Ocean City Home Bank President Steve Brady said awareness is one of the main goals of this event.
"When you hear these young men and woman tell their stories and learn how their lives have been altered by the war, but still so many say they would go back, it's just overwhelming," Brady said. "We, as Americans, need to pay more attention to our vets, particularly those coming home with injuries or illnesses from serving in the war."
The Walk for the Wounded in Ocean City has raised more than $125,000 over the past three years, with about 400 participants at last year's event. Each year, the event gets bigger and better he said.
Constantino said he's predicting the Ocean City Fire Department will raise about $10,000 by Saturday from the sale of their $5 for Freedom stickers. Ocean City firefighters again will be walking in their turnout gear.
Contact Elisa Lala:
If you go
What: Ocean City's fourth annual Walk for the Wounded
When: Saturday, Sept. 29, registration begins at 8:30 a.m.
Where: Ocean City Boardwalk starting at the Music Pier
For more information, visit walkforthewounded.com
$5 for Freedom stickers can be purchased at Ocean City Fire Houses, Manco & Manco Pizza's O.C. locations and the Ocean City VFW Post.