When Wayne Whitbeck’s father was diagnosed with a brain tumor, he wanted to do something epic for him.
During the last month of his dad’s life, he decided how to honor his father — ruck across the country to raise money.
After a year of planning, Whitbeck and fellow Army veteran James Allred launched the nonprofit Ruck for a Cure, and hit the road Feb. 4 with 40-pound rucksacks on their backs.
The two left Myrtle Beach, S.C., and plan to reach China Beach in San Francisco by August, sharing their goal and raising money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital along the way.
“We chose to ruck because of our association with the Army. It’s what we both know,” said Whitbeck, who spent seven years at Fort Hood. He and Allred both left the service in January as drill sergeants at Fort Jackson, S.C.
The goal is to raise $50,000; they’ve raised about $5,000 so far. The two are paying for the trip out of their own pockets, so all donations will go to St. Jude. Merchandise bearing the Ruck for a Cure logo is available at www.ruckforacure.org and the two can take donations while walking.
The trip hasn’t always been easy, and they said the toughest stretch is ahead as they approach the Mojave Desert.
“I don’t like to do left foot, right foot every morning, but neither do the people going through radiation and chemo,” Whitbeck said.
Allred, too, has watched family members suffer from cancer. His mother is about six years into remission from colon cancer and two of his aunts are currently fighting breast cancer.
“Both our families have been very supportive,” Allred said.
His family came down to see the men on their journey in Louisiana and Whitbeck’s family will be in town this weekend for a fundraiser Saturday at Pit Stop Bar & Grill in Nolanville.
About 600 pounds of meat was donated by local businesses and the two hope the community comes out in full force to eat, enjoy live music and raise money and awareness.
At the event, the two men also will receive a check from Alisha Ridley, who raised $500 for their cause with a yard sale at her home in Killeen last month.
The cause spoke to her, she said, because her husband went to drill sergeant school with Whitbeck and her family also has a history with cancer.
“It’s soldiers,” Ridley said. “They put their life on the line every single day for the country. To see them put down their rifle and put on boots to walk is just amazing.”
Even if people can’t make it Saturday, Whitbeck said he hopes their cross-country walk will inspire people to do something proactive to support cancer research.
“I would like to see everybody out there do one thing proactive. Don’t just send your money to an organization, but do something about it,” he said. “You have to actually participate. That’s what it’s going to take.”
If you go
The Ruck for a Cure team invites the local community to join them for a fundraiser featuring live music and barbecue starting at 11 a.m. Saturday at Pit Stop Bar & Grill, 14595 Farm-to-Market 439 in Nolanville.
For those who want to arrive with the team, there will be a meet-up at 10 a.m. at Kay’s Motorcycle Mania, 103 S. Main St., in Nolanville. Then everyone will walk the two miles to Pit Stop.
Admission is $5, a plate of barbecue is $15 and a sandwich plate is $5. All proceeds go to Ruck for a Cure. For more information, go to www.ruckforacure.org.