TAMPA — For nearly a decade, the Wounded Warriors Amputee Football Team has taken on former National Football League players to raise awareness for veterans before each Super Bowl.
This year, that event is canceled due to the pandemic. Instead, veterans, NFL celebrities and members of the general public will participate in a “Salute-To-Service-Stroll” at 9 a.m. Saturday in downtown Tampa, starting near the Ulele Restaurant at 1810 N Highland Ave.
Proceeds from the event will go to Sierra Delta, a nonprofit connecting veterans with service dogs regardless of disability status. CEO and Founder BJ Ganem said the goal this year is to raise $3 million, sufficient funds to enroll 1,000 veterans in the program. When the Wounded Warrior football game was canceled this year, the Saturday walkathon seemed like a good replacement to raise awareness around veterans’ issues, Ganem said.
“A dog walk just made all the sense,” Ganem said. “We are trying to provide this safe but active way to kind of get involved.”
Ganem founded the organization in 2017, in order to harness the “35,000 year old technology of man and dog working together” to help veterans. A Marine veteran himself, Ganem said adopting an Olde English Bulldogge helped him through some of the most difficult times of his life.
“The mere fact that he was depending on me for his life helped me,” Ganem said. “I knew that just the bond between a human and a dog is strong.”
While registration is not required to participate, organizers strongly encourage the public to sign up through Sierra Delta’s website so they can plan appropriately for the size of the group. There is no cost to participate, though organizers ask for donations.
The event will include appearances from the United States Central Command leading General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. and Miss America 2020 Camille Schrier, as well as NFL celebrities and cheerleaders.
Veterans who are interested in applying for one of Sierra Delta’s programs can do so online.
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