Schools unite to walk for homeless veterans

| November 10, 2017

WEST LAFAYETTE – Ridgewood High School principal Todd Stoffer was excited to not only welcome veterans, but also students from Newcomerstown High School to his school’s gym on Friday morning, Nov. 10.

“We may be neighboring schools and rivals and joke about who the real orange and black is, but the nice thing is that we are all red, white and blue and that is why we are here today,” he said.

Ridgewood High School was the starting location for the Nov. 10 Ruck for Homeless Veterans that was organized by area veterans Brian Hawkins, Chad Elliott and Phil Valdez.

The event began with the colors being posted by members of the National Guard and patriotic music being played and sung by Ridgewood students. Stoffer then delivered a few brief comments and recognized the veterans who joined the gathering.

“Today we honor our heroes, remember their achievements and say thank you for their sacrifices,” he said. “We stand today in the midst of patriots and their families and friends. Thank you for answering the call to duty.”

Valdez also had a few remarks for the crowd.

“Thank you for being here,” he said. “It’s going to be a good time.”

Before the crowd dispersed to start their march to Newcomerstown High School, a roughly 8.8 mile journey, Stoffer presented Elliott with two checks to help their cause. The money came from donations collected by Ridgewood district staff members and together totaled a little more than $1,600. Donations of sleeping bags, thermal socks, winter hats and gloves and other items that could help homeless veterans also were collected.

Prior to the official start of the first Ruck for Homeless Veterans, Stoffer said the simplest way to explain a ruck is that it’s moving from location A (Ridgewood High School) to location B (Newcomerstown High School), with your ruck or backpack, which for members of the military weighs around 50 pounds.

“When I was in the Marines and things were rough I would think about all those who carried that weight before me so when you are out there today (Nov. 10) and your bodies are hurting think about all those who have done this before you,” Valdez said.

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    Josie Sellers

    About the Author ()

    I started my journalism career in 2002 with a daily newspaper chain. After various stops with them, I am happy to be back home! I graduated from Coshocton High School in 1998 and received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication in 2002 from Walsh University. I also earned several awards while working for daily papers, including being honored by Coshocton County’s veterans for the stories I wrote about them. I am honored and ready to once again shine a positive light on Coshocton County. I also am the proud mother of a little girl named Sophia!