TROY - Troy University's chapter of Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity begins its trek to the Emerald Coast by inviting students, faculty, staff and community members to join them in the first-ever Walk Hard Memorial Walk on Monday, Feb. 27.
Walk Hard 2017 Week kicks off the fraternity's annual philanthropy that supports wounded warriors through a northwest Florida charity, Jeep Sullivan's Wounded Warrior Outdoor Adventures, Inc. Developed at TROY in 2009, Walk Hard has now become a national model for the fraternity with similar Walk Hard events carried out by ATO chapters at universities across the nation.
The Memorial Walk leaves the Troy Campus Quad at 4 p.m. and processes off campus to Troy's historic downtown Square, where Milky Moos, Momma Goldberg's and Sips on the Square and other stores will donate a portion of the proceeds of sales to the event. Live music will be offered on the Squared and University shuttles will be available to transport walkers and guests back to the campus.
"This is open to anyone who wants to come out and participate in the Walk," said Ryan Renfrow, the chapter's philanthropy chairman. "It gives us the chance to raise awareness for Walk Hard and Jeep Sullivan's and we want to give people a feel of what it's like for us to walk on the side of the road."
The chapter does a lot of "walking on the side of the road." On Friday, March 3, 38 ATO brothers will leave the Quad and spend the next six days of their spring break hiking to Panama City Beach's Pier Park – a trek of nearly 130 miles.
In addition to the Memorial Walk, the brothers will host a Ms. Walk Hard contest, a "Hoops for Troops" three-on-three basketball tournament, a banner contest, and a Wild Game Night to raise awareness and donations for the charity. On Thursday, March 2, a final spirit night will be held at Santa Fe before the walkers head out at 8 a.m. on March 3.
Renfrow said the Wild Game Night consists of a supper of donated wild game dishes, available to students for $5 per plate. The fraternity is accepting donations of wild game from the community as well.
"The week is really about trying to get the campus community, and the broader Troy community, to buy in to what we're doing with Walk Hard and to raise awareness of veterans and the issues they face," Renfrow said.
Those issues are known all too well to Jeep Sullivan, a former Baptist minister in Bonifay who felt the calling to launch a full-time ministry for wounded warriors and those suffering from PTSD.
"We had so many military families and veterans in our area, and their needs were so strong, we believed that starting a ministry focusing on bringing enjoyment in God's great outdoors and helping them with the mental trauma associated with war was where God was leading us," Sullivan said.
Through the non-profit ministry, Sullivan offers opportunities in hunting, fishing and fellowship to veterans, combat wounded military personnel and their families. The organization's goal is to facilitate the healing of the spirit, the soul and the body through outdoor activities at no cost to these heroes.
For information about how to partner with the fraternity, or to make a donation to Walk Hard for Heroes 2017, contact Renfrow at 205-908-7706.