OCEAN CITY - Wearing light-blue shirts, hats denoting their military units and T-shirts in support of family members, several hundred people spent the clear and cool Saturday morning walking for the wounded.
The fifth annual Walk for the Wounded, a 3-mile walk along the Ocean City Boardwalk, raised more than $85,000 for the national nonprofit Operation First Response. The organization helps injured soldiers with living costs and other expenses while they recover from wounds received while in combat.
"It's just getting bigger and bigger. We're getting more and more organizations involved," said Steven Brady, walk founder and president of Ocean City Home Bank.
Walk coordinator Tricia Ciliberto said the total number of participants still was being calculated, but she expects that more people took part in the event Saturday than in previous years. Last year's walk had more than 400, she said.
Brady credited the efforts of the Ocean City Fire Department for helping the walk and fundraiser grow. Last year, the Fire Department raised $12,000, mostly through sales of $5 stickers. This year, the department presented Brady with a check for $16,000, which it raised through sticker and T-shirt sales.
"Everyone has what's called 'donor fatigue' here after the storm," said Steve Costantino, captain of the Ocean City Fire Department. "But everyone dug deep this year and we actually beat last year's number."
One of the reasons the Fire Department got involved with helping to raise money for the walk is because 25 percent of the department's work force is veterans. "This town really gets behind causes," he said. "People come out in droves, and I think that's a testament to the people wo live and work in this town."
Other major donors included a fundraiser through Playland's Castaway Cove and Mainland Regional High School in Linwood.
The walk was created five years ago after Brady heard of a similar event run by his former college roommate in Media, Pa.
"I thought, boy, this is a great concept to take care of these families," Brady said.
Among the participants Saturday were family members of veterans, retired veterans and soldiers who had recently returned from overseas.
Christine Kokal, of Richmond, Va., was among those walking to honor injured soldiers who served with their family members. Kokal's son, Cpt. Matthew Kokal, is serving in Afghanistan, and several of his fellow Marines serving alongside him were gravely injured.
"I walk in honor of them," she said.
Supporting wounded soldiers was an inspiring cause for Bill Schultheis, 70, of Somers Point. Schueltheis was at the walk with his two daughters, Kathy Huffard and Karen Wagner, both of Egg Harbor Township. The three raised nearly $1,000 for the charity.
"I'm a Vietnam vet, so my daughters got involved with me," Schueltheis said. "Today's my birthday and I did it for my bucket list for today."
Contact Sarah Watson:
@acpresssarah on Twitter