Bob Mandera, a retired Moon-Coraopolis postal carrier, will begin his 35th annual three-day trek from Erie to Pittsburgh on Friday to benefit the American Diabetes Association.
While he no longer walks the route due to health concerns, the former postman who walked between five and eight miles per day delivering mail in Coraopolis now drives the van that tags along behind the group of hikers for safety.
"There are a zillion really great causes out there, but I'm kinda dedicated to this one," said Mr. Mandera of McCandless, who also makes donations to groups such as St. Jude, Feed the Children and March of Dimes.
A member of the Coraopolis Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 402, Mr. Mandera has been the state chairman for diabetes-related fundraising since 1998. He also works with the VFW to raise funds for the Arthritis Foundation.
The idea for his diabetes walk came in the mid-1970s, when he participated in the March of Dimes' 25-mile charity walks through Pittsburgh.
The inaugural walk in 1978 was started in honor of his daughter, Pam Paglen of Hampton, now 41, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was 5.
"I more or less dedicate it to [my daughter].
"I'm hoping that advances keep coming with this money," he said.
This year's walk is dedicated to Eleanor Paul, formerly of Sewickley, who died earlier this summer.
Mr. Mandera said he met Ms. Paul and her sister Eileen Paul along the mail route he walked for 32 years.
The twins helped him with press releases, paperwork and fundraising through the years.
That first walk began at the Cranberry Mall on Route 19 in Butler County and ended in Erie, with the hikers spending about 12 hours a day on the road with just a knapsack for their belongings.
The problem with this setup, according to Mr. Mandera, was that there was "no hurrah, you finished" in Erie.
In subsequent years, the route was reversed to end in Cranberry and the distance was reduced from 120 to 100 miles.
The walk now ends at the McKnight Road post office in Ross.
The walkers will be guaranteed their hurrah this year, as they make their way across the finish line around 4 p.m. Sunday.
They will be greeted by family and friends and the color guard from West View VFW Post 2754.
The five participants range in age from 28 to mid-60s.
In 2011, the Veterans' March to Beat Diabetes earned $21,000 for the ADA. This year, they hope to beat that total.
Donations will be accepted through Nov. 1, and can be made by mail to: Erie Diabetes Walk, in care of Bob Mandera, 8884 Royal Manor Road, Apt. 103, Allison Park 15101.
Sonja Reis, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.