“Being in New Jersey has been a no-brainer, because it's such a large community for veterans, especially with places such as Fort Dix,” said Steve Bartomioli, Hope's senior director for sports and recreation, explaining why the group created the run in Secaucus. “The town of Secaucus has been great to us. The police come out, the mayor's involved. It's always been a really welcoming community.”
A previously established relationship with community partners in Secaucus that had strong ties to sponsors also “made it easy for us to start there,” Bartomioli added. “One of the really important things we do is make sure the race is open to all ability levels. So participants can either run or walk in the 5K.”
This is also done to keep in mind wounded service members who may not be physically able to run.
Hope operates around nine to 12 races nationwide annually for service members.
“Our motto is to restore a sense of self, family, and hope in these folks.” – Steve Bartomioli
Hope’s origins are in the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune – located in North Carolina – in 2006. A badly wounded service member was returning from his overseas tour of duty and military families stationed at Lejeune took notice. They launched a race to raise funds for his benefit and for other wounded service members.
The families then decided to begin the organization to continue helping injured vets. To date, Hope has served over 13,000 service members, veterans, and military families, through programs such as clinical health and wellness, transition (helping them re-enter society after war time and find jobs), community engagement, workshops, and sports and recreation (which the annual runs fall under).
“We partner with the Marine Corps and NYC marathons,” Bartomioli said. “We also do activities such as hiking and fishing to get guys and girls out into a unit-type setting, working in a natural environment and accomplishing things together.”
The organization seeks to thank those who've given their service as much as possible. “Our motto is to restore a sense of self, family, and hope in these folks,” Bartomioli said. “These folks volunteer to go overseas and put themselves in harm's way to protect our way of life. We want to give back in a positive way.”
The Harmon Meadow race will start at 8:45 a.m.at 300 Plaza Drive. Wounded service members and families of deceased members run for free. Discounts are also available for students, veterans, and those currently on-duty. To register for the race, visit runforthewarriors.org.
Hannington Dia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org