By: Alyssa Marsico

PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio1020 KDKA) – March for the Military started out as a senior project for Ryan Coennen, four years later the tribute is still going strong. Ryan wanted to organize a race to benefit the military and pay tribute to their sacrifice and service to our country.

Karen Coennen, the race director, got involved with her son’s project and helped him organize the event for the first time four years ago.

“He [Ryan] had written a paper on the mental and physical disabilities of our returning veterans, and to go hand in hand with that, he wanted to do something special to raise money for them. So he decided to do a 5K that benefited Operation Troop Appreciation (OTA).” Coennen said.

Karen talked about the huge undertaking that Ryan got into considering he had never even participated in a 5K, let alone organized one.

The first year Ryan raised around $5,000 and it has grown every year since. They have a new venue, the Dick’s Sporting Goods Complex at Graham Park, in Cranberry Township.

“We have a nice flat out and back course, so that’s a lot more family friendly,” Coennen said, “That’s really helped the race grow, is moving to a new venue. Plus, we have developed a pretty good reputation as far as a local run 5K for charity.”

OTA fulfills the wish lists of deployed servicemen and women, there is a lot of items the government cannot provide for them so OTA steps in.

“OTA also thinks it’s important to let the deployed servicemen and women know that there is a lot of people thinking about them back here at home and knowing that helps boost their morale,” Coennen said.

It’s not too late to sign up for the race. You can sign up as late as race day morning; however, it is not guaranteed if you wait that long you will get a t-shirt from the race.

Visit their Facebook page at this link.

You can hear the whole interview here:

You can also listen to the KDKA Afternoon News with Bill Rehkopf weekdays 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

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