Route for the Brave passes through Elkton on nationwide walk
— Six days before he was set to start on a 3,000-mile walk across the country, Darin Fishburn had an epiphany: he had been thinking too small.
When Fishburn, CEO of Helping Hands for Freedom, and David Roth, the organization’s board chair, originally drew up the plans for the Route for the Brave walk, they envisioned it as a way to raise $3.3 million to build a house of healing for families of soldiers killed in combat — called Gold Star families for the award they receive.
But very few people, even those in the military know what a Gold Star family is and as he spoke at the National Gold Stars Widows conference that night in Arizona, Fishburn realized he needed to look at the walk’s mission differently.
“These families, they want to make sure their loved ones didn’t die in vain, that it wasn’t for naught,” he said. “That night I knew our mission was just to educate America about what a Gold Star family was and if that touched enough hearts the by-product would be the (house of healing).”
On Friday morning, the walkers dipped their toes in the ocean before setting out from Atlantic City, N.J., on their 3,091-mile journey along Route 40 to San Francisco. They arrived in Elkton on Saturday night and after resting on
Sunday, left town at about 5 a.m. Monday on their way to Aberdeen.
But before leaving the county, Fishburn stopped at Elkton High School to briefly talk to students and receive a donation of water and snacks as well as a check for $125. That money will go toward building the house of healing as well as a post-traumatic stress dis- order treatment center. Though the overall goal is $3.3 million, Fishburn said he would be happy with just $1 million since he has already talked to representatives from the United Association who are willing to help with some of the construction for free.
The house will have six living quarters for families to live in as they await their death benefits. The PTSD center will help returning soldiers by providing animal therapy and other forms of treatment, he said.
“We’re losing 22 soldiers a day on U.S. soil (because of suicide),” he said. “So that tells the story of coming home.”
Fishburn isn’t one of the three full-time walkers making the journey, but is traveling along the whole route to help coordinate logistics and the team of people following the walkers in cars.
The three full-time walkers, who will at times be joined by family, friends and other volunteers along the route, are Roth, Staff Sgt. Patrick Shannon and Kevin Winton, an Indiana school teacher, Fishburn said.
Though the trip is only a few days old, Fishburn said the group has already received a lot of help along the way. On Sunday night, the walkers were recognized at the Philadelphia Phillies game and were similarly recognized at the Wilmington Blue Rocks baseball game on Monday night. The Harford County Chamber of Commerce also put them up in a hotel in Aberdeen on Monday night, he added.
The three walkers are planning to travel at least 30 miles a day, six days a week with the goal of getting to San Francisco on Aug. 26. Right now, the walkers are ahead of schedule, which is good because Fishburn anticipates their pace will slow down as they hit the mountains farther west.
“It’s funny, you plan this out, but four months is a long time to make sure everything goes right,” he said with a laugh.
Those looking to follow the Route for the Brave’s journey across the country can like the “Route for the Brave” page on Facebook or check routeforthebrave.org.
Darin Fishburn, CEO of Helping Hands for Freedom, talks to Elkton High School students about Route for the Brave.