Written by Ken McGorry Friday, 11 November 2011 00:00
Lead the Way Fund organizers are preparing for the largest turnout yet at their next event, “A Run Down Hero Highway,” a 4.5-mile run/walk fundraiser held in Lower Manhattan. Scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 20, this family-friendly day starts with a “fun run” along Hudson River Park that includes Battery Park and the World Trade Center, always in sight of the Statue of Liberty. A big celebration at the Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers will follow the run.
The annual Run Down Hero Highway attracts the biggest crowd of all Lead the Way events and well over 1,000 participants are expected this year. Funds raised are directed to disabled U.S. Army Rangers and the families of Rangers who have died, have been injured or are currently serving in harm’s way around the world.
On Nov. 20 runners register at Pier 46 (188 Charles St. by the Westside Highway) at 9 a.m. for a 10 a.m. start. The Lighthouse party, open to runners and nonrunners alike, is from noon to 3 p.m. (The Lighthouse is located on Pier 61 near 23rd St.)
This fifth annual Run Down Hero Highway offers a number of exciting firsts. Due to the growth in participation, this year’s post-run celebration will be held at the Chelsea Piers Lighthouse, a large reception hall overlooking the Hudson. The setting also affords easy access to numerous buffet tables and bars as well as a stage for live music and some very special presentations.
One ceremony during the event involves the American Fallen Soldiers Project. This year artist Phil Taylor will present specially commissioned portraits of two fallen Rangers and one FDNY first responder (lost on 9/11) to their families. An FDNY fireboat will salute the patriots with a fountain of spray over the Hudson River.
Songwriter Joe Horowitz will perform, including patriotic songs including his own composition, Lead the Way, which is the Army Rangers’ slogan.
The Lead the Way Fund was created in honor of Sgt. James J. Regan of Manhasset who was killed in Iraq in February of 2007 while serving with the 75th Ranger Regiment. “Through the Lead the Way Fund, our family and friends strive to honor Jimmy’s spirit and patriotism by giving back to his brothers, the U.S. Army Rangers,” says James P. Regan, Jimmy’s father.
“Our Ranger Assistance Programs provide services that are vital to Rangers’ and their families’ well-being, beyond what the government can offer,” Mr. Regan says. “We are an all-volunteer 501c3 nonprofit and proud that less than 2 percent of our total assets goes to operating costs.”
In addition to financial aid and wellness programs, the Lead the Way Fund also provides tangible goods such as hospital beds for wounded Rangers at home. The fund pays travel expenses for family members visiting hospitalized loved ones and supports many other morale-boosting efforts.
The American Fallen Soldiers Project, Jim Regan says, “is an amazing organization that makes available to the families of fallen soldiers, at no cost, an original portrait of their loved one that fully captures their appearance and personality.”
James and Mary Regan were honored with such a portrait of their son by Phil Taylor two years ago. “These portraits are a valuable asset in the healing and closure process for families who have lost a loved one,” says Jim Regan. “Your son can still be a presence in the painting.”
Jimmy Regan grew up in Manhasset and was a scholar-athlete at Chaminade High School. He graduated from Duke University before joining the Army Rangers.
Regarding the Run Down Hero Highway’s growing popularity Mr. Regan says, “Word’s gotten out. It’s all a grass roots response to help these men and their families. The first run saw about 250 participants. Now, four years later, we expect over 1,000 people. Young people and couples with children especially enjoy the run. Hudson River Park and Battery Park provide a beautiful environment. It’s a special opportunity for children to meet some of our fighting men and for all to celebrate our past heroes and those currently serving.”
Mr. Regan points out that, as our regular Army begins to stand down in the Middle East, the challenge of maintaining peace in the region will go increasingly to Special Operations Command which includes, at the “tip of the spear,” the elite U.S. Army Rangers. “We anticipate that Rangers’ needs will mount in the future and we will be there to assist them.”
Preregister for A Run Down Hero Highway at www.leadthewayfund.org. Walk-ins are also very welcome on the day of the event.