More than 100 people gathered at American Steel Saturday morning to walk a seven-mile route while carrying at least 20 pounds on their backs in honor of the sacrifices of military veterans and first responders.
Dubbed the American Ruck, the inaugural event by American Steel staff and volunteers was a fundraiser for the Dr. Richard Davies First Responder Fund, which supports local first responders and police as well as the victims of crime and disasters, and Paws Assisting Veterans, or PAVE, a program that connects veterans with trained service animals.
“Really, the whole ‘why’ of the event was to remember and recognize what our first responders, active-duty military and veterans have done for us, our community and our country,” explained organizer Jackie Bates. “We’re just so blessed and so lucky for all the sacrifices that they lay down for us every day.”
Bates and American Steel co-workers Joe Inama, Taylor Shaw and Jesse Lyons conceived and coordinated the inaugural event, which she described as a “kind of a crazy, on-a-whim idea” with the intention of giving back to the community and bringing people together.
The event asked folks to bring and carry their own weight (20 to 40 pounds) on the seven-mile journey as a visible reminder of the heavy loads first responders and service members must carry — though firefighters’ typical gear can weigh between 45 and 75 pounds, while Marines routinely shoulder 100 pounds or more in combat situations.
“Another purpose of this event was to make people aware of just getting out and moving your body,” Bates said. “Even if you’re just carrying 10 pounds, 20 pounds — shoot, just throw some cans of beans in a backpack and go for a walk. You’ll notice the difference in total calories burned and how your body feels afterward.”
Many participants got creative in how they made weight, from taping 25-pound dumbbells to their backpacks to shouldering 20-pound bags of Traeger pellets. Others bore specially designed rucksacks and even weight plates because that — apparently — is a thing that exists.
The route started at American Steel on South Sequoia Parkway at 8 a.m. Saturday, February 19, and wound down the Molalla Forest Logging Road Trail. The cost was $50 ahead of time or $60 the day of, with all proceeds benefiting the two nonprofits.
All registrants — a total of 105 — received T-shirts and patches to commemorate their involvement. The event was sponsored by American Steel, Walen Construction, Clinkscales Portable Toilets, Ebner’s Custom Meats and Cutsforth’s Market.
Canby Fire and Police personnel, along with several U.S. Army recruits and recruiters in uniform, joined in the fun, while PAVE brought along a couple of their service dogs to give a firsthand (firstpaw?) look at what they do.
“It was just such a great coming together of businesses to positively impact the community,” Bates said Monday morning. “Me and all of my co-workers who helped put it on — we just can’t stop smiling today. We’re already so excited for next year.”
The second annual American Ruck will be held around the same time next year, though a date has not yet been set.
“Ideally, rucks are kind of ’embrace the suck,'” Bates said with a laugh. “The harder the better, because our service members have given so much. So, we like that it’s cold. If it would have been rained, that would have been great. Turnout wouldn’t have been as good, but it would have been in the spirit of it.”
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