Last year, 36 members of Troy University’s Alpha Tau Omega chapter raised $90,000 for a local wounded warrior mission — $30,000 more than their goal.
Friday morning at 8 a.m., 36 more fraternity men will step off on a 128.3-mile trek from the Quad on the University’s Troy Campus to Pier Park in Panama City Beach hoping they can eclipse this year’s goal, pushing it over the $100,000 mark.
“The blisters, joint pain, chafing and soreness are temporary and fleeting,” said Matthew Taylor, director of the 2022 Walk Hard campaign. “These things are minimal when compared to the physical and psychological injuries of the veterans we do it for.”
The trek directly funds veterans services through Jeep Sullivan’s Wounded Warrior Outdoor Adventures, a non-profit that assists soldiers in recovering from war, including those with missing limbs and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The charity is located in Bonifay, FL.
Along the way, Sullivan visits the hikers, who are often housed by churches along the route, and introduces them to veterans he serves. The vets are eager to share their experiences with the men and their support team, and to lend encouragement to the trekkers.
The Walk Hard route covers six days through the cities of Enterprise, Hartford, Bonifay, FL, Vernon, FL, Ebro, FL and Panama City Beach. As grueling as the Spring Break hike is, it’s rewarding for the fraternity members who are walking.
“To me, Walk Hard is a chance to give back to veterans because they’ve sacrificed a lot for us,” said freshman general business major Logan Cairnes. “I know one of my biggest struggles is going to be the mental aspect of it – I’ll have to keep putting one foot in front of the other.”
Enterprise’s Nathan Dover, a sophomore biomedical sciences major, said his motivation was recognizing the service of veterans.
“Walk Hard means us doing such a small fraction of what the thousands of men and women who have served our nation have done. It’s a small fraction of what they do and it’s an opportunity for us to raise awareness and raise money – do a little bit to give back to them,” he said.
Begun in 2009 by three fraternity brothers that raised about $3,000 the first year, Walk Hard has raised nearly a half-million dollars since its inception and serves as a national model for the fraternity.