Marine, firefighter bring heroes 5K run to Westerville
Runners in central Ohio will be able to join runners across the country this September in honoring -- and raising money for -- fallen heroes.
Westerville firefighter and medic Tom Ullom and Johnstown resident Steve Robbins, a U.S. Marine for 22 years, are working to organize a Travis Manion 9/11 Heroes Run in Westerville.
The run is a fundraiser for the Travis Manion Foundation, founded in honor of a Marine from Pennsylvania who was killed by a sniper in 2007 during the final patrol mission of his second tour of duty in Iraq. He was 26.
The foundation provides "Challenge Grants" to survivors of fallen heroes, active members of the military, veterans and military family members to further education, complete service projects, meet physical challenges and more.
The foundation also offers the "Character Does Matter" leadership program for young people.
"The goal of the Travis Manion Foundation as a whole is to honor the fallen by challenging the living," Robbins said. "And it's not necessarily challenging them to join the fire the police or the military; it's about challenging them to honor the fallen through community action and support, providing assistance in your community."
The foundation organized more than 30 Heroes Runs across the country last September, and organizers expect to do the same this year on Sept. 8.
Robbins heard about the Travis Manion Foundation through friends at the U.S. Naval Academy, and he was motivated to organize a run in Ohio. The nearest runs last year were held in Pittsburgh and Indianapolis.
"It just struck a note with me. Since I got out of the Marines five years ago and moved to the central Ohio area, I hadn't really done anything connected with the military," Robbins said. "Their cause and their reason for forming their foundation just really struck a chord with me, that this is something I would like to participate in."
The Heroes Run partners and splits its proceeds with a local charity. Robbins had heard about the Westerville Fire Fighters Memorial Foundation, which provides scholarships to those pursuing careers as firefighters or medics, and he said it seemed like a good fit.
"We really hit a home run when we got together with (foundation founder) Tom (Ullom) and the Westerville Fire Fighters Memorial Scholarship Fund," Robbins said. "This one seemed to fit right in line with the target of the Travis Manion Foundation."
Ullom said the run will be a good match for Westerville and the Westerville Fire Fighters Memorial Foundation.
"I'm just flattered that they contacted our organization to be a part of this, to partner with them," Ullom said. "We've had the support of the people of Westerville, the support for First Responders Park. I think Westerville has been touched with the loss of several individuals from our community."
Ullom said the goal is for the race to raise $5,000 for the Travis Manion Foundation and the Westerville Fire Fighters Memorial Foundation.
Registration for runners will be $25 in advance, or $35 the day of the race. Organizers also are looking for sponsors, who can donate between $250 and $100,000, and for 30 to 40 volunteers to help the day of the race, Ullom said.
The race is scheduled for 9 a.m. Sept. 8 at Alum Creek Park, 221 W. Main St., Westerville.
It will be preceded at 8 a.m. by an opening ceremony in First Responders Park, 374 W. Main St.
For more information on the run, visit 911HeroesRun.com, or email Columbus@911heroesrun.com.