On Saturday, more than 2,400 walkers and runners crossed "Home Plate" at Fenway Park. They were part of the sixth annual Run to Home Base charity event.
The 9K run/2 mile walk raised $1.1 million dollars for the Home Base Program, which is supported by the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital.
Home Base helps veterans and their families heal from post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries. It’s a growing public health problem as more and more servicemen and women return from battlefields like Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We are the largest clinic in the US to serve veterans and their families with the invisible wounds of war,” said chief operation officer Michael Allard. “The money we raise goes to their clinical care."
In order to take part in the race, runners and walkers needed to raise at least $1,000. Many went over and beyond that amount. The highest individual fundraiser was a veteran, Michael Tierney, who raised more than $10,000. Red Sox Team 9 raised $37,000.
"Everybody should do something for people who serve,” Paul Bermel said. Bermal raced for his son, a student at the US Naval Academy.
The coming together of military personnel, veterans, civilians, and families was at the center of the race.
During the Opening Ceremony, former US Army Sergeant John Girouard shared his story. Girouard was deployed to Afghanistan twice and received the Purple Heart Award. “Thanks for keeping me alive,” he said at the end of his speech.
The crowd in the stadium gave him a standing ovation.
“The children are serving and sacrificing along with their parents,” said Dr. Paul Rauch, director of Home Base’s Family Program. “When veterans come back, it's a big adjustment for them, but also for their families.”
The people who participated in Run to Home Base consisted of men and women of all ages. Some were pushing babies in strollers, others older people in wheelchairs. There were runners with prosthetics, and some military members ran in uniform with heavy backpacks.
Stephanie Maneikis is the Director of Fan Services and Entertainment for the Red Sox. This was her third time running the race.
"The energy on the course was very positive” on Saturday, Maneikis said. “I was inspired by a military veteran who ran carrying a large, heavy US Flag the whole way."
As runners crossed the finish line, they were greeted with high-fives and fist bumps from Red Sox chairman Tom Werner; Tim Wakefield, former Red Sox pitcher and Honorary Chairman of the Red Sox Foundation; politicians; and military officials.
“It’s amazing to see so many people from Massachusetts supporting our veterans,” said United States congressman and former Marine Corps officer Seth Moulton.
Photos: Boston Red Sox (race), Maxwell Surprenant (military)