Shepherd’s Men Completes Epic Eight-Day Run to Raise Funds, Awareness for SHARE Military Initiative
Team moves toward $2.2 Million goal for PTSD, brain injury treatment and research.
Shepherd's Men, a 17-member team of active and former servicemen and civilians finished their epic eight-city run on Memorial Day, a day chosen for its significance in honoring U.S. service members. Since 2014, Shepherd's Men has completed a run every spring to support Shepherd Center's SHARE Military Initiative, a comprehensive program that focuses on assessment and treatment for service men and women who have sustained a mild to moderate traumatic brain injury, along with co-occurring PTSD or other mental health concerns (such as depression or anxiety), from service in post-9/11 conflicts. SHARE Military Initiative provides assistance, support and education to service members and their families during their recovery treatment and beyond.
This year's run began May 22 at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. From there, Shepherd's Men ran a half marathon (22 km) for eight consecutive days, wearing 93 pounds of gear the first day and then 22-pound flak jackets for the remaining days, symbolizing the deaths by suicide of U.S. veterans every day. The team ran through Washington, D.C.; Lynchburg, Virginia; Raleigh. North Carolina; Asheville, North Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; Athens, Georgia; and Atlanta. Along their route, they met with Rotary clubs, VFWs, American Legion posts, Marine Corps League detachments, government officials and civilians to speak about SHARE.
On Monday, May 29, a crowd of friends and family members gathered along Peachtree Road to welcome Shepherd's Men with cheers and applause as a police escort led the way into a celebration in the Mavis Pruet Leslie Memorial Garden and Woodruff Family Residence Center at Shepherd Center. Once at Shepherd Center, a celebration got under way, featuring messages from James Shepherd, co-founder and chairman of the board of Shepherd Center, Sarah Morrison, PT, MBA, MHA, president and CEO of Shepherd Center and Travis Ellis, Shepherd's Men co-founder. Jessica Rodriguez, wife of SHARE graduate Jorge Rodriguez, gave an emotional and heartfelt speech about the positive impact the SHARE Military Initiative has had on their family. By openly sharing their personal story, she helped the crowd understand how their support makes a real and lasting difference for SHARE clients and their families.
Also, Atlanta Opera singer Timothy Miller, who performs "God Bless America" at Atlanta Braves home games, sang for the crowd to conclude the ceremony. City Council President Caesar Mitchell also presented Shepherd's Men with a proclamation from the city of Atlanta. Chris Balch, chairman of the Atlanta Commission on Veterans Affairs was also in attendance.
"We run to share the burden our veterans carry every day as a result of their time in combat," said Travis Ellis, Shepherd’s Men co-founder and 2017 Citizen Honors Award recipient from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. "It is our duty and privilege as Americans to fight for our heroes and their service to our country."
Shepherd's Men received corporate support from HD Supply, Brasfield and Gorrie, TruPoint Bank, The Journey Home Project, SunTrust, S.A. White Oil Company, Inc., UnderArmour, Bill Holt Chevrolet, Cumberland Diamond Exchange, Green Olive Media, Blackberry Smoke, CAL Lighting and 524 Creative, among others. Many supporters joined the last leg of the run with Shepherd's Men on Monday, and still others were on hand to provide food and water when the runners arrived.
More information about the SHARE Military Initiative is available here.
Written by Kerry Ludlam
Photos by Cameron McBride
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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 743 inpatients, 277 day program patients and more than 7,161 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.