Troy University’s chapter of Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity blew it out of the water at Panama City Beach’s Pier Park Wednesday.
The “it” – their philanthropic goal of $60,000 for the chapter’s annual Walk Hard event. The fraternity raised some $90,000 to benefit wounded veterans through Jeep Sullivan’s Wounded Warrior Outdoor Adventures, a mission that provides outdoor opportunities to veterans and their families.
“It’s crazy,” said Josh Marvin, this year’s Walk Hard director. “People have been so supportive of us and our efforts to help wounded veterans in our immediate area. It’s been amazing to see how people respond.”
Walk Hard is the product of a lot of hard work, however.
Planning and fund raising for Walk Hard 2022 is beginning today.
“This has been the most rewarding year of my life,” Marvin said. “We knew that to make (this year’s) Walk Hard historic, to make it meaningful for Jeep, we had to commit every single day.”
Marvin said that when the director’s job was handed over to him, he started thinking about how the chapter could make the event the biggest it could be. While Facebook had long been the standard for communications, an official website was developed and launched as the springboard into other social platforms that included crowd sourcing sites and greatly expanded the chapter’s reach.
“Ultimately, though, we had 36 incredibly bought-in walkers. When you have that kind of passion behind Walk Hard, that drives everything,” he said. “We set the theme for the year as ‘commitment’ and in every single weekly meeting, we asked the walkers ‘how are you committed today; this week?’.”
Kyle Crabtree, an alumnus and one of the founders of Walk Hard, with Austin Bivins and Jacob Laan, said the news of the chapter’s success in 2021 gave him the sort of pride a parent feels when their child grows up and leaves the nest.
“It’s like a ‘loss for words’ thing. It feels surreal and it feels like a different event. What we started was cool and was a catalyst for what it has become today,” he said. “It’s grown into the lifeblood of the chapter. It’s incredible and mind blowing.”
Crabtree, Bivins and Laan didn’t have much of an organization when they started in 2009 – and they chose to walk after school let out for the summer.
“We fried in the heat,” Crabtree recalled, “because school was out, we had no support team except maybe for a girlfriend or two who brought a casserole or lasagna to us on the road. We had to eat it sitting on stumps on the side of the road.”
The team raised about $3,000 on their first Walk Hard.
“For me and Austin, it doesn’t seem real considering those first years. The first year, we did it almost out of spite because everybody said we couldn’t do it,” he said. “It took a couple of years for the chapter to really get behind it.”
It’s the magnitude of the impact the event is having that awes Crabtree, and the quality and commitment of the brothers that took the concept to the next level who continue to inspire him.
“I’m sure the impact on Jeep’s charity has to be insane,” he said. “We might have been the pebble that started the ripples, but there have been bigger rocks in the pond that have kept those ripples going and made Walk Hard grow into what it’s become today.”
Crabtree, who went on to work several years for ATO’s national office, quickly recognizes the skill and quality of TROY’s ATO chapter, which consistently ranks among the Top 10 chapters nationally.
“I’m thankful I was there when I was. The chapter was young – young enough to be impressionable. There’s a lot of value to that TROY chapter in the leadership it shows both on campus and nationally,” he said. “It really speaks to the chapter and to the University: they have good people, high-caliber people at TROY.”
View photos from Walk Hard 2021 on troy.edu/photo.