Quaker Valley High School junior Robbie Veltre is holding his second benefit run for war veterans on Saturday.
By Shellie Petri Budzeak
Many war veterans returning home face difficult challenges and suffer from serious physical injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries.
Robbie Veltre, a junior at Quaker Valley High School in Sewickley, is playing a role to assist those affected veterans by organizing his second Brave American Classic 5K Run/Walk to benefit the Boulder Crest Retreat for Wounded Warriors, which is under construction and is expected to open later this year in Virginia.
The fundraising event will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday in War Memorial Park in Sewickley.
Last year, Robbie organized the event it as a way to fulfill a sophomore project.
A self-proclaimed "lifelong supporter of our troops," Robbie said he believes in the mission of the Boulder Crest Retreat.
"What the retreat does is offer therapeutic care for veterans in the outpatient care phase, and allows them to heal emotionally as well as physically as they attempt to re-enter society," he said.
"It's a niche that currently doesn't exist in the world of wounded veterans."
According to his mother, Delia Battista, "He has a certain conviction for assisting others in need, especially those who defend and serve our country."
Robbie also chose to organize a run/walk because of his passion for cross-country and track running.
Last year's 5K set the Quaker Valley record for a sophomore project fundraiser, which Robbie said raised $14,000. The race was attended by Ken & Julia Falke, the founders of Boulder Crest Retreat.
"My son decided to continue the event as an annual avenue for giving back," Mrs. Battista said.
This year, he hopes to raise $30,000. It is a lofty goal, but one that he has nearly reached.
He said the race requires a lot of work. "It is still an enormous undertaking," he said.
"Not a day goes by without some discussion about the race, whether it is regarding sponsors, promotion, or logistics."
Most Saturdays, he also promotes his event at other races.
Boulder Crest Retreat was founded by Julia Falke and her husband, Ken, a 21-year combat veteran of the U.S. Navy and a retired Master Chief Petty Officer.
The Falkes donated 37 acres in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Bluemont, Va., about 60 miles west of Washington, D.C.
The retreat is near many of the military hospitals and warrior transition units where warriors and their families often undergo inpatient and outpatient care. According to Boulder Crest Retreat's website, the facility intends to offer a multitude of facilities and services for wounded warriors and their families who go there to reconnect, rest and heal.
Veterans and their families will be able to spend one to two weeks at the retreat, free of charge, where they can stay in one of the facility's three-bedroom, handicapped-accessible cabins. The retreat will also have a 6,000-square-foot, handicapped-accessible meeting house for special events and programming.
There will be a Victorian garden as well as a field of organic produce, a bird sanctuary and pond for fishing, and activities such as photography, nature walks, bird and wildlife watching, archery and other adaptive sports.
The facility will have therapeutic dogs on site and there will be yoga and meditation classes and resources for warriors transitioning back into civilian life.
Customized medals will be awarded to the top three male and female finishers and male and female winners in age categories.
Following the benefit 5K, there will be a 1-mile walk.