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3 men walk 100 miles to raise money for veterans

Dec. 22, 2013 - 04:15PM   |  
During the second day of the 100 Mile Hump, Ryan Adams walks along Red House Road on Dec. 16 near Rustburg, Va.
During the second day of the 100 Mile Hump, Ryan Adams walks along Red House Road on Dec. 16 near Rustburg, Va. (Parker Michels-Boyce / AP)
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Ryan Adams, right, Scott Keel, center, and Mark Finelli look for a place to spend the night Dec. 16 along Red House Road near Rustburg, Va. (Parker Michels-boyce / AP)

LYNCHBURG, VA. — Drivers along Red House Road in Campbell County had some company on the road as three men, one dressed in fatigues, continued their 100 Mile Hump, a military-inspired walk to raise money for service members and their families.

Ryan Adams, Scott Keel and Mark Finelli began their 104-mile round trip between Liberty University Law School and Hampden-Sydney College on Dec. 15 and expect to arrive back in Lynchburg at some point this week.

The trio hopes to raise at least $10,000 for Operation Homefront, a nonprofit that provides financial and other assistance to families of servicemen and veterans. As of last Monday, they collected nearly $3,900, and Adams, 28, of Gresham, Ore., said he was confident they would reach their goal.

“It’s a great cause, especially right now around the holidays,” Adams said, noting 100 percent of the hump’s donations go to Operation Homefront. “Hump” is a Marine term for a march or hike.

Some of Operation Homefront’s biggest services are providing financial assistance, emergency food, emergency home repairs, local moving assistance, transitional family housing for wounded veterans and critical baby items, including formula, food and diapers. The majority of the organization’s clients are the lowest-paid service members, according to Operation Homefront’s website.

“There are a lot of soldiers going through a difficult time right now,” Keel, 34 of Chase City, said, listing various challenges veterans face, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. “Operation Homefront helps them while they’re trying to make ends meet and trying to find a job.”

The main goal of the event is to raise money by raising awareness, Keel and Adams said.

The event has a website, www.100milehump.com , for donations, as well as a Facebook page where people can check the men’s progress. A lot of friends and family members post links about the event.

“Hopefully we can plant enough seeds to raise enough money to harvest a bounty for these people,” Keel said.

Finelli, 37, of Bronx, N.Y., started 100 Mile Hump five years ago in Arizona after returning from deployment to Iraq. Finelli saw a double-amputee and decided to stop feeling bad for himself and help other veterans, Keel said.

When Finelli started law school at Liberty University three years ago, he brought the event with him to Virginia, and Adams, another law student in his class, joined.

“We’re both military guys and wanted to keep it going,” Adams said.

Adams currently serves in the Army. Finelli joined the Marines after surviving the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, where he was working Sept. 11, 2001.

“When you have someone struggling in your family, you help them, and the military is a family,” Adams said.

The fundraiser originally benefited Wounded Warrior, but Finelli and Adams decided to give the money to Operation Homefront this year because the families receive a higher percentage of the money, Adams said.

For the men, the walk also is a way to demonstrate their support for the men and women serving and is an expression that they’re thankful for what they have.

“We’re just happy to get out and do it,” Adams said.

Although Keel is not in the military, many of his relatives were. He decided to join Finelli on the hump for the first time this year to support his friend and members of the armed forces.

“It’s a really small task compared to what they do every day,” Keel said. “As a civilian, this is a way to show that I support them and what they do.”

He said he’s loving his first year with the fundraiser.

“It’s a really neat way to spend the day,” he said, adding he’s enjoying the camaraderie among their group. Keel befriended Finelli while attending Hampden-Sydney College. This was the first time he interacted with Adams.

Adams and Keel said there’s been a lot of support from the community. In addition to the financial contributions, a lot of drivers passing them have beeped their horns and waved. One woman even brought them apple pie and coffee in Rustburg.

Keel said people’s generosity has helped a lot, especially with the cold weather and long miles.

The trio walks about eight hours per day, sun up to sun down. They walk between 11 and 17 miles per day while carrying 50-pound packs containing rations and sleeping gear so they can camp at night. The only time they get out of the elements is if someone offers a place for them to stay, or they stop at a gas station for a coffee break.

“We’re not out here to break any records,” Keel said.

Adams said this year already was better than last year with the clear weather, and the distance is doable.

“If you break it up, it’s really not that bad,” he said.

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