Walk Hard: ATO members will start walking to Panama City Beach Friday morning

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(Photo/Contributed)

Members of Troy University’s Alpha Tau Omega fraternity pose with their flag on the beach last year after completing the annual six-day, 128.3-mile walk from Troy to Panama City Beach known as Walk Hard. The proceeds from the event go to benefit veterans.

Luke Brantley

Variety Editor

Lirona Joshi

Staff Writer

Members of Troy University’s Alpha Tau Omega fraternity will embark on a six-day, 128.3-mile walk from Troy to Panama City Beach, Florida, over spring break.

The 29 walkers will leave Friday at 8 a.m. from the Bibb Graves Quad.

The event, known as Walk Hard, is designed to raise money for Jeep Sullivan’s Wounded Warrior Outdoor Ministry.

“We do it to raise money for Jeep Sullivan, who takes veterans who have come back from war and are experiencing emotional or physical repercussions, and he takes them on these awesome trips and shares the Gospel with them and really aids in rehabilitation,” said Josh Marvin, a junior communications major from Alabaster, Alabama, and the director of Walk Hard this year.

The Jeep Sullivan’s Wounded Warrior Outdoor Adventures is a non-profit organization based off of Bonifay, Florida, which facilitates rehabilitation and recreational activities for military veterans.

According to its website, the organization offers opportunities for veterans and their families to participate in outdoor activities such as hunting and fishing, as well as opportunities for fellowship and worship.

The goal of the organization, as per their website, is to facilitate the healing of spirit, soul, and body of the servicemen.

The organization particularly focuses on working with individuals who have PTSD and other mental ailments by incorporating them into a brotherhood that fosters life long friendships among the veterans.

More information about the Jeep Sullivan’s Wounded Warrior Outdoor Adventure initiative can be found at www.jeepsullivan.com.

Marvin said planning for this year’s walk began last April when he was chosen to be the director.

On top of planning the walk itself, Marvin said ATO held other events to raise money, such as Girls Walk Harder (see the Arts & Entertainment section of this issue for more on Girls Walk Harder) and other fundraising events.

Each night during Walk Hard, participants will hear from veterans who have been affected by Jeep Sullivan and his ministry.

“Jeep usually assembles some speakers to come and speak, usually about their experience in war,” Marvin said. “Or what their defining moment was that led to their rehabilitation process, or really what that rehabilitation process is like and why we’re walking.

“It really puts things in perspective in a lot of ways because I think that we can get caught up in day-to-day thinking like, ‘I’m walking, my feet hurt, I have 20 blisters,’ or whatever. But every night to come back and hone in on why we’re here is really important because I think it spurs us on for the next day.”

ATO members who plan on walking have been training since last semester to get ready for the long trek.

Sam Rehm, a freshman marketing major from Mobile, Alabama, said the interview process for those wanting to walk began last fall. He said he found out in November he would be walking and began training.

“I haven’t been doing, like, excessive training, but I’ve tried to walk and run a little bit more,” he said. “You get your shoes a little bit early that way you can start getting them molded to your feet and all that.”

Rehm also said he’s been trying to drink a lot of water to condition himself for the walk.

Braxton Daniels, a sophomore exercise science major from Greenville, Alabama, is also a first-time walker this year.

Daniels said the main emphasis of the training is stretching and hydrating.

“People who’ve walked in the past have said it’s going to slap you in the face no matter what you do, so try as best you can just to prepare yourself for it,” he said. “We’ve done a couple practice walks, just like, little 10-mile walks, just to see where the sensitive spots are and to see where we’re really going to be hurting after 128 miles.”

Daniels said he wanted to walk after seeing ATO members reach the finish line in Panama City Beach, Florida, last year.

“Watching them walk in was just such an emotional moment, and it was just super motivating,” he said. “It really inspired me.

“That’s when I was just like, OK, it’s my time. I’m so ready to do it.”

Daniels said he thinks the hardest part is the mental aspect of such a long walk.

“What will make it easier is doing it alongside my brothers,” he said. “I don’t think there’s an easy part, but I think that will make it easier, just knowing that 28 brothers and I are going to make this long trek, and we’re going to do it together.”

Daniels said he wanted to walk this year to honor veterans.

“These people that have served our country have gone through so much worse, and then they get up the next morning and go and do it all over again,” Daniels said. “If all it takes for me to contribute back and just give back a small amount of what they give is taking six days out of my spring break just to walk 128 miles, I would walk every year.”

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