Group Running to Washington, D.C., to Raise Funds for Shepherd Center’s SHARE Military Initiative
Eight Marines, one sailor and one civilian to cover 687 miles in a week.
Travis Ellis is not a runner. In fact, he hates running.
But these days, he’s training two to three hours a day for the run of a lifetime.
The 40-year-old from Marietta, Ga., will be among a team of 10 men – eight U.S. Marines, one U.S. Navy corpsman and Ellis – to share a run of nearly 700 miles this May.
The week-long trek – from Atlanta to Washington, D.C. – will follow historic Route 29 through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, ending at the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington, Va., on May 25.
The run isn’t for fun: It’s to call attention to Shepherd’s SHARE (Shaping Hope and Recovery Excellence) Military Initiative, a comprehensive outpatient day program that extends Shepherd’s continuum of care to U.S. service members who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. The specialized rehabilitation program helps military personnel who have sustained mild traumatic brain injury and may have significant physical, behavioral and cognitive impairments as a result.
Established through a generous 2008 donation from Atlanta philanthropist Bernie Marcus, the SHARE Military Initiative is sustained through private contributions and is provided at no cost to service members.
Ellis became aware of SHARE while serving as chairman of the Honorary Commanders, a leadership development program within the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce that pairs community and business leaders with military commanders to learn more about local Commands and National Defense on a broader scale. In recent years the classes have visited Shepherd Center to see the SHARE initiative, and last year’s class held a fundraiser that brought in $50,000 for the program.
But they wanted to do more. One of the people who came to Shepherd with Ellis was U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Troy Campbell, 35, who is based in Smyrna. After seeing SHARE in action, he wanted to help. So he and Ellis began developing the idea to run to the nation’s capital.
“Instead of just asking for money, we wanted to go through some sacrifice to give back in our own way, just like those soldiers have,” Campbell said.
“Anyone can knock on doors and solicit money, and that’s just fine,” Ellis added. “But we saw this as a unique way of fundraising and raising awareness. We personally have skin in the game. Hopefully, it will inspire others to give.”
Metro Atlanta-based Superior Plumbing is serving as the title sponsor of the run.
The group, who along with Ellis and Campbell will include Marines from Smyrna’s Company “B,” 4th Reconnaissance BN, will leave from Shepherd Center on May 19 and run 100 miles daily. That means every person in the group must run 14 miles – or just over a half marathon – every day. The group has a rigorous training routine that incorporates running, swimming and weight lifting. They train for several hours a day six days a week.
When not running, team members will ride in a recreational vehicle. Each participant is responsible for logistics during one 100-mile stretch. That includes finding a place to park the RV nightly – most likely at a VFW, ROTC or Armory post along the way, where the group hopes to speak to an audience about SHARE.
“This is an absolutely phenomenal group,” said Dean Melcher, director of development operations at the Shepherd Center Foundation, “It is unbelievable what they’re doing for us. They are going to remind people that eight people can make a huge difference.”
Accompanying the group will be husband and wife team Glynda and Glen Thor, who in their Toyota Tundra will serve as the advance team. Ellis recruited Glynda, who now chairs the Honorary Commanders, to help with the logistics, public relations and marketing aspects of the trip.
“We're the support team," she said. “We will do whatever we can do to help along the way. We feel very fortunate to be involved.”
The goal is to raise $100,000, which covers operating costs for SHARE for an entire month. But more importantly, the group also hopes to raise awareness of the program.
“Getting the word out about SHARE outside of Atlanta is just as vital as the dollars we raise,” Ellis said. “The hope is also to spark new programs of this kind in other parts of the country.”
Ellis, who is vice president and founding partner of Mobilized Fuels, a petroleum distributor based in Marietta, Ga., has never served in the military. But he is passionate about supporting those who have served the United States.
“When the generation before us came back from Vietnam, the country turned a blind eye to the problems they face,” he said. “I think that’s an atrocity. We have an obligation to make sure it is not repeated. We are running to further that mission of improving lives of those people who have served. The work that’s done at SHARE is special; it’s needed. I think this is going to lead to lives being saved.”
Written by Sara Baxter
Photos and Video by Louie Favorite
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 935 inpatients, 541 day program patients and more than 7,300 outpatients each year.