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Little run, just for fun: Citadel Marines raise $83,000 for the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund

By Lance Cpl. Jason D. Mills | | April 6, 2007

The ground trembled. The sound of nearly 80 thousand feet pounding the pavement echoed through the air like a booming storm cloud.

Their proud determination was almost palpable as nearly 40,000 people ran the 10-kilometer Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston, March 31. The annual run is held to promote continuous physical activity and a healthy lifestyle.

However, for the 25 runners in “boots and utes” it was about something much more.

Twenty-five of the Marines and cadets from The Citadel’s Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps detachment ran this year’s Cooper River Bridge run in Charleston to raise awareness of the financial needs of Marines wounded while serving in Iraq.

"The whole idea is to set ourselves apart and raise more awareness in the local community about the needs of injured Marines and the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund," said Capt. Matthew Kutilek, a Marine Officer Instructor at The Citadel.

As if running the six miles in heavy combat boots and green utility trousers wasn’t enough, the Marines who participated also decided to wear a 55-pound pack.

"Once you put on the Marine Corps uniform, it’s not about you anymore; it’s about the Marines you serve,” said Maj. Steve Pritchard, an MOI at The Citadel. “In our capacity we are looking to educate our students on selfless service to their local community and their nation.”

Money raised by The Citadel went to the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, which provides financial assistance to Marines injured in combat or while in training, to other service members injured while in direct support of Marine units and their families.

The fund also helps defray the expenses incurred during hospitalization, rehabilitation and recovery. The overall goal of the IMSFF is to alleviate the financial burden placed on the family so that their focus can be on their loved one’s recovery, according to the group’s Web site, semperfifund.org.

"Marines take care of Marines - our fellow brothers," said Kutilek. "This is the least we can do in Charleston, South Carolina to help out our wounded Marines."

Since their inception in May 2004 the IMSFF has provided more than $9 million in assistance to those in need.

"The goal (for the Semper Fi Run) is (to raise) at least 100 dollars per person times (25) people, times family members (and) times people we know," said cadet Ross Nufsbaum.

Even though their original goal was to raise $2,500, following Saturday's bridge run The Citadel Marines raised nearly $83,000 for injured Marines such as Lance Cpl. Juan Valdez and his family.

"The bullet went inside my arm, my chest and out my back," said Valdez. "It fractured my T9 in my back, fractured my rib (and) collapsed both lungs."

Valdez's mother couldn't afford the plane ticket to be with her son, nor could she afford to miss work. The Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund paid for it all.

To see future Marines run on his behalf is encouraging, Valdez said.

"We appreciate it a lot," Valdez said, who attended the race on March 31. "It's incredible the support this town has given to us."

Even so, Nufsbaum says with 55-pound pack and all, it doesn't compare to those sacrificing it all.

"Even if I was running with a 100-pound pack it still wouldn't be as tough as what these Marines have had to go through," said Nufsbaum.

To donate

If you would like to support The Citadel Marines’ efforts to raise money for the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, please make a check payable to the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund. Checks should be mailed to:

825 College Blvd

Suite 102, PMB 609 Oceanside

CA 92057

You can also visit their website at http://semperfifund.org and click on their “How You Can Help” link.

For questions, email Kutilek at kutilekm1@citadel.edu or Staff Sgt. Mike Harris at mike.harris@citadel.edu.