By Madeline Gardner
On Saturday, September 10, the Travis Manion Foundation will host its 9/11 Heroes Run in Lithia at FishHawk Ranch at 8 a.m. While this national service organization for veterans started this event in 2008, this will be the seventh year that FishHawk has hosted it on a local level in remembrance for all the heroes of 9/11, including the hundreds of first responders who lost their lives serving that day.
While the event is held in 90 different locations around the world annually and recorded 60,000 participants for this event last year alone, the run initially began as a grassroots effort to honor Marine First Lieutenant Travis Manion by his family. Before he was deployed to Iraq in 2007 where he was killed in action, he visited New York City and Rescue One, which had lost almost all its men on the day of the September 11 attacks. Touched by such acts of bravery, the Heroes Run subsequently serves to express gratitude for and continue the legacies of Manion, veterans and first responders who served in or have served since 9/11.
While the run serves to benefit this national organization and cause, it also connects members of the community on a local level to remember the tragedy of 9/11 by encouraging citizens of any age to participate either by running, walking, rucking or volunteering.
Amici’s Pizza & Pasta, located in the Park Square Plaza, where the run will be held, hands out pizza to the participants as one of the businesses involved in this event annually. Owner John Santivasci, who was working in New York during the September 11 attacks, believes that the 9/11 Heroes Run is a great way to highlight the strength of the town and the committed effort to being grateful for those who did and still do serve.
“9/11, everyone knows something or felt something — had their heart drop out of their chest at that moment no matter where they were, even if they weren’t in New York,” said Santivasci. “And this particular town is really a military community. This particular time of year, we all come together.”
The proceeds of the event support the Travis Manion Foundation, which strives to unite and strengthen communities by training, developing and highlighting the role models that lead them. It develops programs, training opportunities and events designed to empower veterans and families of the fallen and then inspire them to pass on their values to the next generation and the community at large.
For more information on the 9/11 Heroes Run and to register, please visit www.911heroesrun.org.