The Veterans of Foreign Wars Department of California and VFW Post 4748 in Tuolumne are teaming up to host a “Ruck March” fundraiser on April 25 beginning at Tuolumne Veterans Memorial Hall to benefit the nonprofit organization’s veterans service offices statewide.
Registration for the event is $60 and includes a special patch and T-shirt commemorating the event, as well as the chance to win still-to-be-determined prizes for first, second and third place finishers. Sponsorships are also available for a minimum $500 donation.
All proceeds will support veterans service offices under the state VFW to carry out its mission of helping connect veterans with the benefits they have earned and need.
Aaron Rasmussen, former commander of VFW Post 4748 and key organizer of the event, said the deadline for potential sponsors to be included on the event T-shirt is April 10. That is also the deadline for participants to register and be guaranteed a shirt, though he said there may be additional ones available for late sign-ups.
“If people want to just walk and not register, that’s OK, but it would be asked that some donation be made to help the cause,” he said.
The march will begin at 10 a.m. April 25 in front of the Tuolumne Veterans Memorial Hall at 18375 Fir Avenue in Tuolumne and conclude by about noon. Hamburgers and hot dogs will also be available to purchase from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. that day.
Rasmussen said the route will be roughly 2.5 miles through the Westside Pavilion on mostly flat ground with some hills that are friendly for people of all ages and those in wheelchairs with off road capabilities. Black Oak Casino Resort, one of the event’s sponsors, is allowing them to use the historic former West Side Lumber Co. property.
“It will be a nice scenic trail through the Westside property,” he said. “They’ll see the old bridge as they’re walking by, the old pond, and the old burner.”
A “ruck march” is a military term for a relatively fast march while carrying a heavy load and are regularly conducted by military units to simulate the movement of getting their gear from one point to another on foot.
Rasmussen said he came up with the idea for the march after the state VFW reached out to him about doing a statewide fundraiser and noted how VFW organizations in Arizona and New Mexico have conducted similar marches, which he felt would be a good fit for the Tuolumne County area.
Like many other nonprofit organizations, Rasmussen said the VFW took a financial hit last year from the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting restrictions that prevented them from hosting the types of fundraisers they typically would.
“We’re just trying to recover from not having very many funds coming in last year,” he said. “We’re trying to go outside the box to have a few more fundraisers.”
Rasmussen said he’s hoping to get at least 200 registered, paying participants for the event and currently has about a dozen.
People who participate are also encouraged to fill a backpack with 22 pounds of items that can be donated to the VFW’s homeless veterans program. Only registered participants with backpacks will be eligible to receive a prize for finishing in first, second or third place.
The number 22 is significant because a study by the United States Department of Veterans of Affairs found that’s how many U.S. veterans die each day from suicide, which comes out to about one every 65 minutes, though some believe that rate could be undercounting.
Businesses and organizations that have already become sponsors for the event include the VFW Post 4748, Black Oak Casino Resort, Auto Tech and Tires in East Sonora, McCurley’s National Flooring and Window Coverings in East Sonora, Micro-Tronics in East Sonora, and Sonora Vets Helping Vets.
The design of the patch for the event (see image) also commemorates the 100th anniversary this year of the VFW Department of California’s founding.
The VFW itself traces its roots back to 1899 when veterans of the Spanish-American Civil War and Phillipine Insurrection founded local organizations to secure their rights and benefits for their service, according to the organization’s website.
There are currently more than 1.5 million members of the VFW and its auxiliary chapters.
Contact Alex MacLean at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 768-5175.