Six years ago, the Travis Manion Foundation established its 9/11 Heroes Run at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church’s parking lot in Doylestown with just a few hundred runners. Fast-forward to September 25th, 2013, the sixth annual 9/11 Heroes Run is now held at Fonthill Park due to an outpouring of support from several thousand people in attendance. This year, over 1,800 runners participated in this Doylestown race.
According to Ryan Manion, President of the Travis Manion Foundation, this event has become “very grassroots in nature.” “After our first race, volunteers from other communities approached us asking for our assistance in how they too could establish an event like ours in their hometown.”
Today it has grown so significantly that the 9/11 Heroes Run is currently held in 53 locations worldwide as far away as Japan and Guam. It is estimated that a total of 50,000 people, including participants, runners and volunteers, took part in these races this year.
The goal of the event, which always falls the week before or after 9/11, is to never forget the sacrifices of the heroes of September 11th, as well as in the wars since. It honors the military, veterans, first responders and civilians. It was inspired by the Travis Manion Foundation’s mission to assist the nation’s veterans and the families of the fallen heroes.
Marine 1st Lt. Travis Manion was one of those fallen heroes. During his second tour in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, he was fatally wounded at age 26 by an enemy sniper while aiding and drawing fire away from his wounded comrades. His selfless actions allowed every member of his patrol to survive.
“When my Uncle Chris became Doylestown’s race director, he requested that proceeds from this race go to military and first responder charities,” adds Ryan, Travis’ sister.
Large portions of the proceeds raised stay in the host race communities. This year’s Doylestown 9/11 Heroes Run benefited Habitat of Humanity of Bucks County and the Doylestown Fire Company. The remaining proceeds go toward funding The Travis Manion Foundation, which provides transition assistance, education funding and healing and grief support to veterans and survivors of Fallen Heroes.
During the opening ceremony, Chris Manion described Travis as “exemplifying the spirit of service that is so common in our military, in our first responders, in our police force and in our firefighters.”
Ryan addressed the crowd, saying, “Know that you are part of a movement that now spans over 50 locations around the world, and know that it started right here with your support.”
Said Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, “Everything we have, the car we drove to get here, the home we slept in last night, the schools we send our children to, we have them in a free country due to the service and sacrifice of the many men and women who serve us in the volunteer forces in the military, in the emergency services, and also due to their families who wait at home for their return.
“This day is about remembering their sacrifices and thanking those who have served.”
Several Wounded Warriors from the Walter Reed National Military Memorial Center stood up and were honored with much applause. Florence Kowoczka, Executive Director for Habitat of Humanity for Bucks County, described how her organization is currently building townhouses for two marines, one of whom is also a Purple Heart recipient.
For more information about the Travis Manion Foundation, visit www.travismanion.org.