In what event spokesman Phil Martelli called “a remarkable turnout on a remarkable day,” hundreds turned out Saturday morning for the sixth annual Walk for the Wounded on the Ocean City Boardwalk.
St. Joseph’s University basketball coach, who has been a spokesman and active supporter of the event since its inception, thanks Ocean City for its support of the Walk for the Wounded.
The charity fundraiser benefits Operation First Response, a nonprofit group dedicated to helping soldiers and their families after they return from combat overseas.
In a moving ceremony that preceded the three-mile walk, veterans thanked Operation First Response for its invaluable assistance, and in turn Operation First Response thanked the Ocean City community for its overwhelming support.
“It is so easy to think in our little towns in South Jersey that we are not affected by this war,” said Josephine Carney, advisor to Mainland Regional High School’s Support Our Troops Club.
The club donated more than $1,100 to the event, but Carney also experienced Operation First Response from the other side. Her son, Patrick, returned from deployments in Iraq with several different injuries.
The Walk for the Wounded in Ocean City was founded six years ago with the assistance of its main sponsor, Ocean City Home Bank. Bank president Steve Brady called on an old Widener University roommate, St. Joseph’s University basketball coach Phil Martelli, to lend his support to the cause.
The Ocean City Fire Department has been instrumental in raising funds and awareness for Operation First Response. OCFD Capt. Steve Constantino thanked Ocean City resident and business owner Winnie Piriano for helping to kick off this year’s campaign at a Memorial Day Weekend event.
Martelli thanked Playland’s Castaway Cove and Gillian’s Wonderland Pier for sponsoring ride events that helped raise money. And he thanked the many other Ocean City businesses that contributed.
The pre-event ceremony also featured the national anthem by a 13-year-old Marmora resident, Julia Fumo, and keynote speaker Army Sgt. Robert Gordon. He is a Ranger who served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. Now fighting a thyroid cancer related to exposure during his service, Gordon and his family experienced the assistance of Operation First Response first-hand.