Sixteen brothers of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity embarked on a six-day, 125-mile hike from Troy University to Panama City, Fla. on Friday, March 8.
This philanthropy event is referred to as Walk Hard.
The walk benefitted the Wounded Warrior Project, an organization that helps veterans who are in need of physical or mental rehabilitation reenter civilian life. While some of the brothers who walked had no previous experience with the organization, they all had their own personal reasons for walking.
Will Spivey, a junior athletic training major from Montgomery, said he chose to participate in Walk Hard “to raise money and awareness for Wounded Warrior because it motivates and inspires people all around the community and anyone who hears about it.”
Others chose to participate to strengthen their friendships and brotherhood while some sought the opportunity to spend Spring Break in a more rewarding way.
During the six-day walk, the participants passed time by telling life stories and funny jokes, singing songs and waving to passing cars.
On the fourth night, several wounded warriors visited the walkers to share their stories and discuss the impact that the Wounded Warrior Project had on them personally.
“This particular night was super encouraging and reminded me why I was walking and what I was walking for,” said Austin Coots, a junior information systems major from Eva.
Along the way, the brothers were followed in a truck driven by two other brothers, Brandon Stoudenmeyier and Tim White, to ensure that the walkers remained safe and hydrated.
The walkers always had a safe place to stay at night, whether inside or out, thanks to family ties and connections with churches. While the group started with 16 walkers, by the last day there were only 14. The other two brothers, while driven to keep going, had to stop due to medical issues.
“I was very disappointed I wasn’t able to finish. I am a very strong-willed and determined person and I don’t give up on things, so to be at a point where I couldn’t go any further was very frustrating and hard to accept,” said Will Bailey, a junior mathematics and secondary education major from Talladega.
Even though Bailey was unable to finish, he said the trip taught him not only about limitations, but also about the brotherhood of ATO and how blessed he was to have them.
The walkers found the sixth day, when they walked the remaining 16 miles into Pier Park in Panama City Beach, Fla. to be the most rewarding.
“Finishing was definitely one of the most rewarding feelings I’ve ever felt,” Coots said. “Also, I was glad to be able to stop walking.”
Jake Thibodeaux, a sophomore business major from Decatur, is the philanthropy chair of ATO. Thibodeaux organized the philanthropy event and participated with the other 15 walkers. This was the fifth year the fraternity participated in Walk Hard.
“We definitely can not wait to see how it will get bigger year after year,” Thibodeaux said. ATO surpassed their goal of $15,000 and have currently raised over $16,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project, with donations still coming in.