By Linda Reilly, Times Correspondent
LOWER MERION >> Operation First Response and the Brandywine Conference and Visitors Bureau officials have partnered with Upper Darby hometown hero Matt Sondermann to promote a fundraiser for the eighth annual Walk for the Wounded and Warriors 5K.
The Voices for Vets benefit concert will be 4-8 p.m. Saturday, April 4, at the Ardmore Music Hall, 23 E. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore.
Nick Constantino of Broomall, senior representative with Operation First Response (OFR), Marty Milligan of the Visitors Bureau, and Sondermann have high hopes of a sold-out concert.
Admission is $20 at the door, and features performances by Philadelphia vocalists Laura Shaw and Carmen Magro and other surprise performers. The event also features live and silent auctions and raffles.
Sondermann, a retired Marine Corps sergeant and a 2002 Upper Darby High School graduate, will talk about his three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Sondermann suffered severe injuries June 14, 2008, from a road bomb explosion in Afghanistan. He went through extensive treatment for about a year and a half at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. He suffered multiple fractures in his right leg and arm, facial lacerations and third-degree burns.
The former Drexel Hill Middle School student was named to the Wall of Heroes last year during the annual 9/11 commemoration at the school.
For Sondermann, 9/11 was the catalyst for joining the Marine Corps.
“I’ll never forget it,” Sondermann said. “9/11 was the big reason I joined. I never had any thoughts to join the military. I was always excellent in school and figured I would go right to college. Life changed and took on a whole new meaning. I watched Iraq unfold, and I was sitting in Delaware County (Community College) thinking, ‘this can wait.’”
After recuperating, Sondermann was able to continue his education, and graduated last June from Drexel University.
“Our two-mile walk and 5K run will take place on May 2,” Constantino said. “Over the seven years, it has already raised more than $1 million.”
According to Constantino, more than 95 percent of donations go directly to injured service members who require financial assistance for medical-related care and transportation and other expenses, including rent, utilities, car payments and groceries.
“The April 4 concert is going to be a blast,” Constantino said. “(Sondermann) will be speaking and sharing his inspiring story of bravery. The Walk for the Wounded and Warriors 5K will be a great family day, with military vehicles on display, celebrity guests like (former Phillies broadcaster) Chris Wheeler, music, food and a Kid’s Zone with laser tag, a maze and zip-lining across Rose Tree Park in Upper Providence. Those who attend these events will be making a real difference in the lives of military families in serious distress.”
“The best way we can show Matt and all of our wounded heroes that we have their backs is to not forget their sacrifice by enjoying a great concert afternoon in Ardmore and by signing up for the Walk or Run at our biggest Delco fundraiser,” Constantino said. “There are literally more than 50,000 wounded (troops) with cases pending in the VA system, and our mission is to step in and step up with the critical funds they need now to help keep their families going through devastating and challenging circumstances.”
Milligan said the concert and the Walk and Run are the two events that raise vital funds that support troops trying to overcome physical challenges.
“Our bureau will continue to do everything in our power to help OFR provide help for heroes like Matt,” Milligan said.
For information or tickets for the Voices for Vets concert, contact Joe Natale at 484-557-5640. To sign up for Walk for the Wounded go to www.walkforthewounded.org