Booster

Rotary backs Marine's march across U.S.

Clintonville's Justin Kuhel will walk coast to coast this year to raise money for veterans

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Justin Kuhel may now add another title to his resume: Honorary Rotarian.

The U.S. Marine Corps veteran, certified paramedic and son of Clintonville Area Commission District 2 representative Nancy Kuhel plans to embark May 16 on a 2,700-mile March Across America to raise funds for two nonprofit organizations that help former soldiers in need.

In June 2012, Kuhel completed a 400-mile journey, on foot, from Columbus to Arlington National Cemetery, raising $1,300 for the Wounded Warrior Project.

This time around, the much-longer trek from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina to California's Camp Pendleton is to benefit the Headstrong Project and Help Our Military Heroes.

Headstrong provides free treatment for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Help Our Military Heroes offers accessible vehicles to those injured in service.

The Clintonville Rotary Club will offer both spiritual and financial support to Kuhel in his effort to raise $100,000 on his long walk for the two organizations.

The former came last week when Carole W. Tomko, president of the Clintonville Rotary, announced she would exercise her prerogative of naming an honorary member. She chose Kuhel.

"I have been thinking about who I should appoint for about two months now," Tomko wrote in an email. "I wanted to select someone who exemplifies the object of Rotary.

"Rotary International states, 'The object of Rotary is to encourage and foster the ideal of service.' In our own club, as well as others, we speak to the ideal of 'service above self.'

"Based on these criteria, I am pleased to announce Justin Kuhel as this year's Honorary Rotarian for Clintonville Rotary. There is no higher service above self than sacrifice for one's country and fellow man. Justin is the embodiment of this creed."

"He exemplifies what we do in terms of service above self," said Jason Janoski, the club's president-elect. "It is an extraordinary effort to help his colleagues and fellow veterans who need some help."

On the financial side of things, Janoski said Clintonville Rotary will donate $1,000 and will challenge other Rotary Clubs along the March Across America route to match that donation.

Kuhel, who enlisted in the Marines in 2006 and was deployed to Iraq the following year and to Afghanistan in 2009 before being honorably discharged in September 2010, said he is buoyed by the gesture and financial support of the local Rotarians. He's especially pleased at the challenge to other clubs in cities and towns he will pass through on his five-month march.

"They've been a huge help with everything, especially with contacts with other businesses and individuals who can help me with the walk," Kuhel said. "It's just another great thing they can contribute to me. I can just add that to my titles. I'm sure this will help the cause."

"He will be stopping along the way quite a bit," Janoski said. "Folks have already expressed an interest in having him stop to speak along the way.

"We're trying to get the word out in terms of media relations and financial support -- whatever we can do."

Janoski added that Kuhel could use donations of clothing, camping gear and shoes.

Especially shoes.

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