Welcoming a new face to its annual effort, the Travis Manion Foundation is partnering with Tampa’s Veteran Approved Network (VAN), a network in Tampa Bay providing veterans with access to and discounts for various educational and health resources through its free membership, to host its 9/11 Heroes Run at Al Lopez Park on Saturday, September 9.
“The 9/11 Heroes Run is not all military. It’s to honor law enforcement, first responders of all kinds,” said Toni Hedstrom, co-race director and founder of VAN. “But it’s a great opportunity for the community to come out and be part of an event that is very heartwarming.”
Founded in 2007 by his family, the Travis Manion Foundation memorializes Marine First Lieutenant Travis Manion, who lost his life serving in Iraq in April of that same year. Manion had previously traveled to Rescue 1 in New York City, which lost nearly all its men on September 11 of 2001. Deeply moved by his visit, the 9/11 Heroes Run has thus remained a key project of the foundation since 2008, honoring those who have fallen and those who continue to serve today.
With help from both national and local sponsors, this event will feature food and entertainment. Sponsor Streetlight Taco will be providing fresh chips and guacamole, and the EXTRAS, a local band, will be performing as well. Additionally, retired Major General James ‘Hammer’ Hartstell of the U.S. Marine Corps and Florida State Senator Jay Collins are scheduled to speak at the event.
VAN will also be setting up its Veterans Village, a series of vendors who will be available to greet race attendees and hand out free merchandise. Some of these organizations and businesses will include American Legion, 2nd Amendment Armory of Brandon and Buffalo Wild Wings.
A portion of the proceeds will go directly to the Travis Manion Foundation, while the remainder will be allocated to VAN to disseminate within its network.
Hoping to diffuse the mission of the Travis Manion Foundation, retired Marine and co-race director Beau Higgins, who served with Manion as the commanding officer of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in the Marine Corps, cited the event as an opportunity to unite the community in remembrance and the spirit of giving.
“If everybody gives back a little bit, it all adds up,” said Higgins. “… if you find a cause there at one of the booths or just someone you connect with there to make a small difference in your local community, that all adds up.”
To learn more or register for the 9/11 Heroes Run, please visit https://runsignup.com/race/fl/tampa/911heroesruntampafl. Al Lopez Park is located at 4180 N. Himes Ave in Tampa.