The Shelburne Legion was a pitstop for a group of hikers this past weekend, who are making a grueling month long “ruck” to help raise funds to support homeless veterans.
The group of five, consisting of Lino Di Julio, Joey Dimauro, Dave Ward, Nathan Desborough, and Noel Grace, arrived at the local legion on Saturday (July 23) following a 25-kilometer day-long trek.
The men are hiking the Bruce Trail over the span of 34 days as part of the 9th annual Road 2 Recovery initiative organized by non-profit Ruck 2 Remember.
Starting the ruck on July 5, the team is hiking the 900 kilometer stretch of the Bruce Trail from Tobermory to Niagara, stopping at 20 Royal Canadian Legions and are expected to take their final steps on Aug. 6.
Rucking, also known as ruck marching, involves carrying a weighted pack on your back while walking or hiking. Di Julio told the Free Press that they each carry rucksacks that weigh between 40 to 45 pounds.
Funds raised through Ruck 2 Recovery trek go towards the Royal Canadian Legion charity, Operation: Leave the Streets Behind, which aims to help support veterans facing homelessness.
Di Julio founded the non-profit organization Ruck 2 Remember in July of 2014 as a way to give tribute to and support front line responders and miliary personnel. A civilian, Di Julio was unable to serve in the military due to his epilepsy.
During the inaugural event in 2014, volunteers rucked 158 bricks, each of which was engraved with the name of a Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan, from Hamilton to Legion Hall in Parry Sound.
The bricks were then incorporated into a monument.
In following years, the event became known as the Ruck 2 Recovery and was developed around rucking two kilometers for each military or first responder lost the year before. The ruck is typically between 150 km and 160 km and takes about four days.
Over eight years, Ruck 2 Remember has raised almost $500,000 to help keep veterans off of the streets. The money has helped over 1,070 veterans in more than 170 communities.
“We’re really proud to be a part of the program and contribute to it financially,” said Di Julio.
As they began to plan for the ninth annual Ruck to Remember, Di Julio said they were looking to see if there was a way, they could double the amount of money they had raised over the years, in just one year.
“We came up with Ruck the Bruce,” explained Di Julio. “The Bruce Trail is one of those things that everybody kind of associates with the province so we thought that was great.”
Operation: Leave the Streets Behind helps veterans through multiple stages of coming off the streets to help ensure they stay off the streets. It’s a process that Di Julio notes is extremely expensive.
When asked what he hopes the fundraiser will lead to, Di Juilo said, “We’d like to say that we would end veteran homelessness, but I don’t know if that’s an achievable goal.”
He continued, “There are some people out there, who are veterans, and aren’t ready to come off the streets and there’s probably always going to be a percentage, but what we’d like to do is make sure that whenever we do find somebody ready to make that decision, that every tool and dollar is available to get them back on their feet.”
The Shelburne Legion donated $500 from their poppy fund to the cause.
“It was a great opportunity to be a part of and to support them in their goal,” said vice president, Dean Schroeder. “They’re unbelievable guys doing a very difficult job and it’s amazing that they stopped in and spent time with us and with our legion.”
Donations can be made on the Road to Recovery: Ruck the Bruce GoFundMe page.
At the time of print, the initiative has raised over $121,000 of their half million goal.
Paula Brown, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shelburne Free Press