Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Gump-Like Run Helps Support Veterans

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Gump-Like Run Helps Support Veterans

Article excerpt

A former Marine Corps sergeant inspired by Forrest Gump is running 3,600 miles cross-country to raise money for groups that help veterans.

Brendan O'Toole, founder and president of the Run for Veterans, ran his first miles in Alabama on Monday and is expected to come through Tuscaloosa on Saturday.

His journey began on Veterans Day 2012 in Oceanside, Calif., and will end in Portland, Maine, later this year.

O'Toole and his team said they hope to raise $2 million to support three groups that help veterans: the USO, Give an Hour and Team Red, White & Blue.

"Our goal is to promote the positive mental, social and physical well-being (of service members), and each of those organizations covers one of those three aspects," said Timmy Dwyer, assistant director of media for the Run for Veterans. "Give an Hour is our mental health provider. It gives free mental health services to military members and their families. Our social well-being is the USO, and the physical well-being is Team Red, White & Blue."

O'Toole served in the Marines from 2008-12, completing two deployments. He was first deployed in Haiti, Djibouti as a part of support operations for Iraq and Afghanistan, and then again to the Helmand Province of Afghanistan.

Dwyer said the experience O'Toole and his fellow service members had while returning from deployment is what really made him serious about the project.

A news release states that O'Toole's idea for a cross-country run was inspired by watching the movie "Forrest Gump" in high school. In the movie, Gump, a Vietnam veteran played by Tom Hanks, runs cross- country after breaking up with his girlfriend, Jenny.

"Gump" has several ties to Tuscaloosa -- the movie is

based on a novel written by Winston Groom, who attended the

University of Alabama, and Gump is a UA student who plays football at the Capstone.

According to the Run for Veterans official Twitter site, O'Toole hit the halfway point in his 3,600-mile run in Jackson, Miss. on June 21.

Dwyer said that in the miles O'Toole has run so far, he's run into almost every obstacle

imaginable.

"We had a blizzard, sandstorms, rainstorms and the first day we got into Louisiana we had a tornado touch down within about a half- mile of us. …

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