On Friday afternoon, June 20th, a small group of boy scouts from Malvern Troop 7 traveled to Duncannon, PA to meet up with the “2014 Warrior Hikers” on the Appalachian Trail. The Warrior Hike ‘Walk off the War’ program is in its third year, the brainchild of U.S. Marine Sean Gobin who walked the entire 2,185 mile trail in 2012 to raise funds to purchase vehicles for disabled veterans. However, he recognized the therapeutic effects of this trek and decided the program would better serve as a way for veterans to decompress after their service in Iraq and Afghanistan. This year, the program has expanded to include not only the Appalachian Trail, but also the Continental Divide Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. On March 17th, fourteen veterans began the hike northward from Georgia heading toward Mt. Katahdin in Maine.
Malvern Troop 7 became involved with the Warrior Hike program when Troop Committee Chairperson, Vicki Sharpless, challenged the scouts to raise $1,800 – the cost to sponsor one hiker for the 6-month trek. She had heard about Warrior Hike in 2013 and had followed the program through Facebook. The scouts and their families and friends surpassed the goal, raising approximately $2,500. In fact, two of the scouts, Richie Cavallaro and Brody Plourde, raised almost $2,000 of the total by involving the students and families of St. Norbert School in Paoli.
On Friday, Scouts Cavallaro, Plourde, Cas Szupica, Shane Johnston and Matthew Lanetti, along with leaders Sharpless and David Lanetti, made their way to the sleepy town of Duncannon, north of Harrisburg at the junction of the Juniata and Susquehanna Rivers. The group met up there with the six remaining Warrior Hikers. The scouts and veterans formed a quick bond and shared hiking stories and other experiences. The veterans included the scouts in their welcome ceremony, riding on fire trucks through the town and attending the evening’s community dinner at the local American Legion hall.
That night as the scouts and veterans parted ways, a promise was made. These new heroes –with trail names The Viking, Stitch, Cosmo, QT, Big Foot and Machine – plan to take a photo of themselves with a Troop 7 shirt at the top of Mt. Katahdin at the end of their journey. And the Troop 7 scouts will be cheering them the whole way.
For more information on the Warrior Hike, go to www.warriorhike.com or follow Warrior Hike on Facebook and Twitter.