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Running For the Troops

Tuck School Races To Benefit Veterans

Hanover — Memorial Day may be a month away, but the Tuck School of Business Armed Forces Alumni Association is getting a head start on honoring U.S. military veterans.

In conjunction with nonprofit charity Team Red, White and Blue, Tuck’s AFAA is staging the first annual Upper Valley Serves 5-and 10-kilometer road races Saturday morning in downtown Hanover.

Beginning and ending at the Dartmouth College green, the festivities will include opening remarks by Dartmouth interim President Carol Folt as well as Bethany Yurek, veterans liaison for U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.

Former U.S. Olympians and Upper Valley residents John Morton, Jeff Hastings and Jonathan Chaffee will be on hand to greet participants, as will American Legion Riders motorcyclists from Lebanon Post 22.

Organized by a handful of Tuck students, Upper Valley Serves had pre-registered 112 runners as of yesterday, according to race director and Tuck AFAA President Christina Fanitzi. Registration remains open at www.lightboxreg.com or at the green beginning at 7 a.m. Saturday.

Forty volunteers have signed on to help facilitate the event, which will conclude with an awards ceremony on the green and an after-party at Salt hill Pub in Hanover.

“It’s going to be a great day of celebration and patriotism,” said Fanitzi, a second-year Tuck student and active U.S. Army officer. “We’ve been working really hard to make sure this will be an awesome event.”

While Fanitzi and her fellow Tuck AFAA organizers don’t expect the event to raise much revenue — “We might even take a loss,” Fanitzi said — they hope it will raise plenty of awareness for Team Red, White and Blue.

Founded by Army Major and U.S. Military Academy at West Point instructor Michael Erwin, one of Fanitzi’s mentors, Team RWB provides assistance to wounded veterans transitioning from military to civilian life. With referrals from Veterans Affairs medical centers and other outlets, Team RWB “advocates” unite with veterans to encourage physical and social activities.

While Team Red, White and Blue includes 11 chapters and more than 30 community program centers throughout the U.S., the closest one to the Upper Valley exists in Boston. Fanitzi and Tuck AFAA partners Chris Davis and Greg Miller hope Saturday’s race will help promote interest and be a springboard for a future Team RWB New Hampshire/Vermont chapter.

“There are tons of veterans in the Upper Valley, a lot of retirees from World War II and Vietnam,” said Davis, a second-year Tuck student and active Coast Guard officer. “It’s important for veterans to have outlets for a connection to the community and be inspired to participate in events, whether it’s going to a ball game or just going out for coffee or getting a meal with some company. It helps fill a hole that veterans face when they come back from war, especially when they’re wounded.”

Veterans connected with Team RWB are also encouraged to engage in physical activities such as road races, trail running and yoga.

“It’s all about providing healthy alternatives to some of the cycles (wounded veterans) can fall into drinking, smoking and drugs. It’s much healthier for them to get out and interact with people and exercise,” Fanitzi said. “Right now, everyone (in the Upper Valley) who gets a Team RWB referral is sent to Boston and that’s just too far away for a lot of the veterans in the area.”

Fanitzi and Davis said they were inspired to pursue organizing Saturday’s race after a strong turnout at a Veterans Day banquet held at Dartmouth’s Collis Center last November.

“There was just so much support and enthusiasm for that, we wanted to keep the momentum rolling,” Fanitzi said. “The community here has a thirst for events like this.”

A moment of silence will be held prior to Saturday’s race in honor of victims of the recent bombing tragedy at the Boston Marathon, where Team Red, White and Blue fielded a team of 17 runners. After the explosions near the finish line, many of the Team RWB runners helped the injured, including one heroic instance where a colonel running for Team RWB turned his shirt into a makeshift tourniquet.

The organization later held “response runs” throughout the U.S. as members took to running in the streets to demonstrate unity and support for Boston.

“The way the (Team RWB) runners in Boston was amazing; they essentially went into combat mode, became first responders and helped save lives,” Fanitzi said. “It makes you charged to hear about stuff like that.”

Those who wish to donate to the event, but cannot attend, many do so by visiting ww.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/christinafanitzi/uppervalleyserves510k. Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.