Hike raises money for chil­dren of vic­tims

Army re­cruiters cre­ate 58-mile fundrais­ing hike

Las Vegas Review-Journal (Sunday) - - NEVADA & THE WEST - By Kate­lyn New­berg Con­tact Kate­lyn New­berg at knew­berg@re­viewjour­nal.com or 702-383-0240. Fol­low @k_new­berg on Twit­ter.

Ben­jamin He­witt walked 58 miles through Las Ve­gas last year, de­spite blis­ters and sore feet for nearly 12 hours a day, two days in a row.

This year He­witt did it all again and, just like last year, will do­nate the money he and a group of 12 oth­ers raise to schol­ar­ships for the chil­dren of the Oct. 1 mass shoot­ing vic­tims.

“I have no prob­lem with con­tin­u­ing to do this over and over again as long as I’m help­ing these peo­ple, or wher­ever it takes me,” the 30-yearold said.

He­witt, an Army re­cruiter, and his friend Michael Baggett both work in a Las Ve­gas Army re­cruit­ment of­fice. Baggett said he had just moved to Las Ve­gas when a lone gun­man on Oct. 1 shat­tered the city where He­witt had grown up.

When He­witt sug­gested re­cruit­ing ac­tive mil­i­tary per­son­nel to take a hike to raise money for those who died, Baggett jumped on the idea to help his new home, lead­ing the two to cre­ate the Har­vest Mile or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“We were kind of out­siders look­ing in, in a way,” Baggett said of the mil­i­tary mem­bers who weren’t from the Las Ve­gas Val­ley, adding that they formed “a tem­po­rary com­mu­nity, but it is our com­mu­nity.”

On Sat­ur­day, the two friends or­ga­nized the hike again, this time open­ing it up to civil­ians. A group of 13 left from West Ca­reer and Tech­ni­cal Academy on West Charles­ton Boule­vard, not far from the Red Rock Canyon Na­tional Con­ser­va­tion Area, to walk 29 miles. They’ll do the same thing Sun­day, walk­ing 58 miles through the Red Rock area by the end of the week­end, one mile for each of the Oct. 1 shoot­ing vic­tims.

A 5K was also held Sat­ur­day morn­ing to raise ad­di­tional money. By 5:30 p.m., only eight of the orig­i­nal 13 fin­ished the first day of the hike, He­witt said Sat­ur­day.

“The 5K that we did, the turnout was a lot bet­ter than I ex­pected,” he said, adding that a few of the peo­ple who planned on hik­ing 58 miles par­tic­i­pated in the 5K in­stead.

Baggett said the task is not for the faint of heart, and they had to pre­pare with medics on hand if the civil­ians — or the mil­i­tary mem­bers — couldn’t han­dle it.

“Even with be­ing in the Army, and you’re used to walk­ing and car­ry­ing a load all the time, noth­ing can re­ally pre­pare you for that 58 miles,” Baggett said.

The youngest of the group, 16-year-old Alex Ngo, fin­ished first on Sat­ur­day and sat on the curb of a side­walk af­ter­ward, his shoes kicked off and his brother’s white Chick­Fil-A hat next to him.

“I did all of it, and oh, man, it hurts,” said Ngo, who at­tends Foothill High School in Hen­der­son.

Ngo’s older brother com­mit­ted to join­ing the mil­i­tary dur­ing last year’s hike, which per­suaded him to join the Army branch be­cause they “had char­ac­ter,” the 16-yearold said.

His brother hiked 10 miles dur­ing the first day of 2017’s hike, and Ngo said he was de­ter­mined to top his brother Sat­ur­day. But be­sides the sib­ling ri­valry, Ngo was think­ing of the Oct. 1 vic­tims.

Ngo said he wanted to par­tic­i­pate in the hike be­cause “ev­ery­thing that you make is given to the chil­dren so they can go to col­lege.”

He­witt said the money goes to

the Las Ve­gas Sur­vivor Schol­ar­ship Fund to help the chil­dren of the Oct. 1 vic­tims. Last year the group raised $15,000, and Baggett said that this year, about $8,000 was raised by Sat­ur­day evening.

The hik­ers said they plan to com­plete the en­tire 58 miles on Sun­day. Mike Flo­res, who grew up in Ve­gas and works in Army re­cruit­ment with He­witt and Baggett, said he would do his darnedest to fin­ish, de­spite his blis­ters.

“I love Ve­gas. I love its peo­ple, and this is all for them,” the 29-year-old said.

Kate­lyn New­berg Las Ve­gas Re­view-Jour­nal

Par­tic­i­pants in the 2018 Har­vest Mile hike pose for a photo Sat­ur­day af­ter com­plet­ing their first day through Red Rock Na­tional Con­ser­va­tion Area.

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