Troy University Alpha Tau Omega fraternity members overcame sleet, high winds, extreme heat and torrential rain in their spring break “march to sea,” raising $125,000 and pushing the fraternity’s support over the half-million dollar mark.
In all 34 hikers made the six-day, 128.3-mile trek from the Troy Campus Quad to Pier Park in Panama City Beach for Bonifay-based Jeep Sullivan’s Wounded Warrior Outdoor Adventures. The payout was some $35,000 more than $90,000 goal set a year ago.
“The weather conditions for the walkers have been about four different season changes this week,” said Walk Hard 2022 Director Matthew Taylor. “Day Two sleeted on them followed by 15- to 20-mile an hour winds the rest of the day. Day Three was a hard grind for the guys, even though making the state line is always a morale booster, it’s still hard.”
Their route takes them through the cities of Troy, Enterprise and Hartford in Alabama and Bonifay, Vernon, Ebro and Panama City Beach in Florida.
“It’s been a hard year, but it has been worth it,” Taylor said. “To see the look on Jeep’s face when we presented him the check made it all worth it.”
“Knowing what Jeep will be able to do with this money for the veterans, and see their gratitude and appreciation is overwhelming. We had veterans coming up to us saying ‘thank you’ and it’s great but weird as well because we’re the ones who should be telling them ‘thank you’ for what they have done for all of us,” he said.
Breaking six figures on the fundraising mission is something that is impressive, but also catapults the Troy chapter into another level nationally.
“I still can’t believe it,” said Gus McKenzie, an ATO alumnus who was Walk Hard 2019 director. “The work they put into this year’s walk is astronomically impressive.”
In what is essentially a nickel-a-dime, grassroots fundraising program with no big-ticket corporate donors, McKenzie, who’s Walk Hard team raised $67,000 in 2019, said a key was working with businesses in the area to generate additional support.
“This has always been about asking enough people to donate enough money to get the goal each year. It was really impressive to see how hard the 2022 team worked behind the scenes and how they got out and worked on businesses,” he said. “We all appreciate the business sponsors and Mark and Susan Anderson at Eagle Outfitters in Dothan really helped to lay the groundwork to show other businesses what they could do with Walk Hard. They played a critical role in our development.”
McKenzie said the achievement not only puts the Troy Chapter into a conversation with larger chapters at bigger universities but also shines a light onto the positive impact Greek organizations have in their communities.
“You can’t hide the hard work put in when your organization raises $125,000. It really shows the true nature of what most of the guys are doing with most of their time,” he said. “Just because you hear in the news about what a few members do with some of their time, something like this demonstrates the community service Greeks do and is indicative of a very healthy Greek system.”
Planning for Walk Hard 2023 began shortly after the 4 p.m. arrival into Pier Park of the 2022 walkers.
More about Jeep Sullivan’s Outdoor Adventures is available on the organization’s website. Additional resources on the Walk Hard are also on the internet, and donations can be made online at CrowdChange.
Photo galleries from Walk Hard 2022 are available at troy.edu/photo.