America Supports You: Navy Pilot Runs for Veterans
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 18, 2006 It took running 26.2 miles for Lt. Cmdr. Richard Ryan, a Navy pilot, to decide how to spend his free time while preparing for his next assignment as an attaché in the Middle East.
Navy pilot Lt. Cmdr. Rick Ryan is planning to run 28 races of marathon length or longer to raise awareness and financial support for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, British Legion, and Childhood First. The first three organizations offer support to servicemembers, their families, or both. The last is a British organization that helps care for Britain's at-risk youth. Courtesy photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Originally, Ryan thought he'd volunteer at the National Naval Medical Center, in nearby Bethesda, Md., or at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here. But as he toughed his way through the 2005 Marine Corps Marathon, Oct. 30 here, with "a lot of guys who were obviously just back from Iraq," a new idea struck him.
"I was thinking about running one marathon per month, which at that time seemed clearly insane, to raise some money for these guys' charities," he said, referring to organizations that support injured servicemembers and their families. "When I first said I was going to try 12, & most of my friends -- almost to a person -- said, 'You're insane. There's no way.'"
Still, he said, he needed to do this "to promote immense awareness ... one mile at a time," for a good cause -- or, rather, four good causes. Since his initial idea of 12 marathons in 12 months, Ryan has added to his plan. He now plans to run 28 races of varying lengths to raise awareness and financial support for The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, or TAPS; the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund; and two British charities, the British Legion and Childhood First.
TAPS is a nonprofit organization supporting families, friends and military servicemembers affected by a death in the armed services. The Semper Fi Fund provides financial other support to Marines, sailors, and families of those injured serving our nation.
Ryan said the British Legion works much like TAPS, and Childhood First helps care for Britain's at-risk youth.
Ryan said he chose those British charities because his father is English. Ryan also has played rugby for the past 20 years. "About half of my personal contacts and supporters are from commonwealth nations," he said.
Ryan said he hopes the verbal encouragement he's gotten from his fellow servicemembers will parlay into more cash donations. To date, Ryan has raised about $10,000 for his chosen charities. Direct financial donations to the organizations can be made through his "Marathons for Hope" Web site, www.marathonsforhope.org.
"I don't handle any of the money myself," he said. "Every dollar that people are donating is going directly to one of the charities."
With the completion of the May 7 Potomac River Run Marathon here, Ryan completed what he refers to as the original "dirty dozen," a reference of his original plan to run 12 marathons for charity. But he's only a little over six months into his year of running and said he is hoping to get companies with military affiliations to add their monetary support to his charities.
Before the Marine Corps Marathon, Ryan had run one other marathon, 10 years earlier. "I was not, by any means, in marathon shape," he said.
Two marathons in a year is a good number for those who consider themselves marathoners, Ryan said. "(My) idea is to do things that shock people."
Ryan said he dedicates all his races to specific fallen servicemembers or crews. But he plans to dedicate the 2006 Marine Corps Marathon to all of his brothers and sisters in arms who have lost their lives in the global war on terrorism.
If all goes as planned, Ryan is scheduled to complete 24 full marathons, one 30-miler, a pair of 50-milers and a 100-mile race by the end of his year here studying Arabic. The JFK 50-Mile Race, Nov. 19 in Hagerstown, Md., is his last scheduled run.