Belmont County welcomes Run for the Wall riders with opened arms

T-L Photo/GAGE VOTA Over 300 riders participate in the Run for the Wall as they park their bikes at the Ohio Valley Mall to eat the welcome dinner hosted by the Belmont County Tourism Council.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Run for the Wall made its way to the former Sears location at the Ohio Valley Mall for a welcome dinner hosted by Belmont County Tourism.

This marks the third year that the organization has stopped in Belmont County on its “Wall to Wall” mission. The Wall to Wall journey is called the Sandbox route. It starts at the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., and ends at the Middle East Conflict Wall in Marseilles, Illinois.

“The group of veteran riders that come are so appreciative of everything that we do for them and just so happy to be welcomed here. It really is just a wonderful event to be able to have our office hosts,” Executive Director of Belmont County Tourism Council Jackee Pugh said.

The Ohio coordinator for the Run for the Wall, Brandon “Five O” McCray, is a Uhrichsville native and while mapping out the Sandbox route, he noticed that it would be traveling along interstate 70 and passing through the tri-state area.

Once he realized that, he wanted to find a way to make a stop in Ohio. A year before the first year of the Sandbox route, a few of the organizers went on a reconnaissance mission to figure out the exact route would logistically make sense and reportedly fell in love with Belmont County.

This year marks the first year that the Belmont County Tourism Council hosted the event. In the past the welcome dinner took place at Northstar Polaris, but due to a family commitment it was not able to host this year. The tourism council was able to receive sponsorships for the dinner from American Legion Post 159, Kimble Recycling and Disposal, McDonald’s, Riesbeck’s Food Markets, Outback Steakhouse, Litman Enterprise LLC, the Ohio Valley Mall, Sam’s Club, Chik-fil-A, and Terry and Charlene Pugh.

Route coordinator Heidi ‘Blue’ Hansing addressed the attendees Sunday evening. She thanked the Belmont County Tourism Council and everyone who helped organize the event. She specifically thanked American Legion Post 159 and asked for a member of post 159 to come forward.

“We are so thankful for the support of our visit and the service that you’ve given us tonight. So we would like to ask the riders of the Sandbox route of Run for the Wall to present to you a donation,” Hansing said.

She then asked Kim Kuthy of the Tri-State Military Veterans Museum to come forward.

“Kim, we would also like to thank you for your support and the work that you do to memorialize veterans in your tri-state area. We’d like to present you with a donation, again from all of these rides right here for your veterans museum,” Hansing added. “One of the things that we often say is as long as we’re telling their stories and say their names, we will never forget.”

American Legion Post 159 Commander Larry Barnes then took the stage.

“We greatly appreciate the donation that you gave us and in return, we would like to donate $500 to the Sandbox,” he said.


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