Tampa, Florida -- You can't live in the Tampa Bay Area and not otice the huge military influence. It is home to MacDill Air Force Base, U.S. Central Command and the Haley V.A. Hospital--which cares for thousands of wounded service members from all branches of the military.
Those wounded heroes are getting help from a group of volunteers who hit the road to raise money. They are known as Team Hope for the Warriors Tampa.
Team Hope for the Warriors is a running club that meets each Thursday evening for a run along Tampa's Bayshore Boulevard--preparing for various runs like the recent Rock 'N Roll half marathon in St. Petersburg and upcoming Gasparilla Distance Classic in Tampa.
But Team Hope for the Warriors is more than a social group. They raise money for the national non-profit organization Hope for the Warriors which was founded in 2006 by a group of Marine wives in North Carolina who saw the effects of war on service members and their families.
"We've got 40,000 plus wounded service members--young service members--who will live with their wounds for the rest of their life," said Lt. Col. Devin Young from Team Hope for the Warriors. "So we've got a whole generation we need to take care of for decades to come."
Hope for the Warriors fills the gaps on what the government and the V.A. can't do for wounded service members. They grant wishes, pay for scholarships and provide emergency funds for things like rent and utilities.
The Thursday night runs for Team Hope for the Warriors always end up where they begin--at the South Tampa Beef 'o' Brady's on MacDill Avenue. The management rolls out the welcome mat--with gift certificates for the runners and a dollar donation for every Michelob Ultra sold on Thursdays.
"The Tampa area in particular has a very large number of injured service members here," said Mirka Young of Hope for the Warriors." "We've got the V.A. poytrauma unit here in Tampa. If they're not here yet they might retire here. If word can get out in the Tampa area for the assistance that service members need, it'll be wonderful."
Team Hope for the Warriors is certainly doing its part. You can't help but notice them running in a group along Bayshore, at various runs and, of course, after the runs at Beef 'O' Brady's. They hope to have veterans join their group, too.
"Ultimately, we'd love for them to walk in the door and say, hey, this is a group that supports you both in spirit and financially," said Lt. Col. Devin Young.
Team Hope for the Warriors Tampa meets each Thursday at 6:00pm for their weekly run. They gather at the Beef 'O' Brady's on S. MacDill Avenue. It ends with a social hour at the restaurant. Beef 'O' Brady's contributes a dollar for every Michelob Ultra sold on Thursdays to Hope for the Warriors--whether you take part in the run or not.