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Marines make Pensacola streets echo "Oorah!" for charity

Published: 9/26/2012

From the Pensacola News Journal

The Marine Corps., about 2,000 strong, stormed through downtown Pensacola Saturday morning on a spirited but peaceful mission that helped raise about $25,000 for several charities.


Also participating in the 29th annual Semper Fi Charity Run were nearly 1,100 civilians, ranging from serious runners to casual walkers, some of whom pushed baby carriages.


Marine Col. Robert Sherrill, senior officer at the event, said, “It’s a small token of thanks back to the city, which is so warm to the military personnel stationed here. For us it’s a great bonding time.”


Funds were raised through individual registrations and sizable donations from several businesses, including $5,000 from McGuire’s Irish Pub, $5,000 from Pen Air Federal Credit Union and $1,000 from Navy Federal Credit Union, according to a event supervisor.


Participants began gathering before 7 a.m. at the Community Maritime Park on Pensacola Bay. The Marines, who rode buses from Pensacola Naval Air Station and other bases in the area, wore green shorts and T-shirts. They organized in marching-style formations, each with someone carrying the unit flag, and stayed that way in their run through town.


A few Marines joined the race with the civilians, who left the starting line at 8:15 a.m. to the booming signal from a small cannon owned and fired by Dan Lindemann, a veteran Marine aviator who now owns A&J Mugs ceramics gift shop. His footstool-size cannon uses black powder and provides a big bang. He observed, “Marines like a loud noise.”


While trotting in formation on a circuitous route through town to the finish line at Seville Quarter, the Marines chanted cadence and frequently cheered resounding “Oorahs.”


Capt. David Hanes, who raced with the civilians and finished second, pondered the question of whether it was tougher to compete silently or have to sing while running the roughly 3-mile course while staying in step. “The ones that ran in formation, for the most part are students who haven’t been in the Marine Corps for very long. They want to come out here and show what they’re made of.”


Indeed, they made an inspiring appearance. But Stacey Kostevicki, executive director of the Gulf Coast Kid’s House, was at least as impressed by what the Marines helped accomplish.


“It’s really mind boggling to see the armed forces put this together and have such a big impact on several charities that need the help,” said Kostevicki, whose organization provides services for child victims of abuse and neglect in Escambia County.


Other causes benefiting from the Marines event include: New Horizons of Northwest Florida, which serves the developmentally and physically challenged people; Escambia Westgate School for students with disabilities; the Miracle League of Pensacola, a group that works with special-needs children; and the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast.


Amid the outpouring of community spirit, there was a race; top finishers received medals. The winner among the men: Matt Dobson, 43, an Army reserve chaplain and vocational teacher from Jay. He deliberately ran behind other leaders for the first couple of miles, then sprinted to first in the home stretch. His time was 13 minutes, 17 seconds.


“I used strategy to win, and it paid off,” said Dobson, who thanked the Marines for organizing the race and drew applause from several of them at the awards ceremony.


First among the women competitors: Erica Ziel, a Navy flight officer student at Pensacola Naval Air Station. Her time was 16 minutes, 36 seconds. “It’s great to be part of such a wonderful event,” she said.


After the sweating, the race turned into at party a Seville Quarter with catered beer and barbecue. Any training rules seemed made to be broken at that point. And that’s okay, said Navy Cmdr. Mike Kohler, stationed at Pensacola Naval Hospital, who sipped suds from a plastic cup. He said, “This is the way it should be: a good cause and a good time.”


Read the full article

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