Shepherd's Men Finish 1,300-Mile Run to Benefit Brain Injury Rehabilitation Program for Military Service Members
Military service members, veterans and a civilian run from Boston to Atlanta in nine days to raise money and awareness for Shepherd Center's SHARE Military Initiative.
Fourteen men – known collectively as Shepherd’s Men -- completed a 1,300-mile, nine-day trek from Boston to Shepherd Center on Sunday, April 3. A crowd of friends and family gathered along Peachtree Road to welcome them 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.
Shepherd's Men is comprised of military service members, veterans and a civilian. Together, they have raised awareness and more than $500,000 to help support Shepherd Center's SHARE Military Initiative, a comprehensive program that provides treatment to U.S. military service members who have sustained mild to moderate traumatic brain injury (TBI) and/or PTSD in the wars in post-9/11 conflicts.
During their journey, which began on March 26, each runner covered 22 kilometers – roughly the distance of a half-marathon – everyday, all while wearing a 22-pound military flak jacket. The number 22 is a significant one.
“There are 22 veteran suicides every day, with over 300,000 of our heroes having been diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury,” says Travis Ellis, organizer of Shepherd’s Men and the team’s only civilian. “Last year, when we ran, that number was the same. We will keep running until that number goes down. We want everyone to know that in SHARE, there is a lifesaving program that can help.”
As the group made their way from Boston to Atlanta they made stops in Newport, R.I., New York City, Gettysburg, Pa., Lynchburg, Va., Knoxville, Tenn., Nashville, Tenn., Chattanooga, Tenn., Athens, Ga., and finally, Atlanta. They met with Rotary clubs, VFWs, American Legion posts and Marine Corps League detachments to speak about SHARE.
Last year, Shepherd’s Men ran 911 miles from the Ground Zero fountains by the Freedom Tower in New York City to Shepherd Center over eight days
Shepherd's Men participant James Peterson, a U.S. Army veteran and former SHARE client, said the Shepherd Center program has changed his life – a message he shared while on the road with Shepherd’s Men.
“They gave me what I needed to get my life back, such as the tools to problem solve,” James says. “There are a lot of men and women who are living the way I did before coming to SHARE. I hope I showed those veterans what Shepherd Center and SHARE can do for them. There’s hope out there.”
Shepherd's Men received corporate support from HD Supply, Saucony and Superior Plumbing and Verizon Wireless, among others. Many supporters joined the last leg of the run with Shepherd's Men on Sunday, and still others were on hand to provide food and water when the runners arrived. Williamson Bros. Barbecue was on hand to feed the crowd.
For more information about the SHARE Military Initiative, click here.
Written by Kerry Ludlam
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.