GRETNA, Neb. (KMTV) — For 10 years, veteran Jay Miralles said he was going to walk from Lincoln to Omaha to raise $2,500 for veterans.
“Then one of my friends who is an amputee combat veteran said, ‘You sure do talk a lot of smack for an able-bodied veteran.’ So when he said that to me, I said OK, no excuses,” Miralles said.
Last year he finally made it happen, as the 50 Mile March was born.
“We raised $25,000 that first year with just six people,” Miralles said.
This year, the 50 Mile March looks a lot different, as that number grew from six participants to 39.
“I’m overwhelmed right now because this wasn’t supposed to be this big,” Miralles said. “You are supposed to go to some gala fundraiser and buy some chicken and green beans that you don’t even like, just to make a little money for a foundation. This is different.”
39 people are making the 50 mile walk from Lincoln to Omaha to raise money to support local veterans in need. They have already raised over $50,000! Tune in tonight at 10 for the incredible story @3NewsNowOmaha pic.twitter.com/MYNa8L0SHE— Zach Williamson (@ZWilliamsonTV3) August 22, 2021
They left Lincoln Saturday evening at 6 p.m. and arrived in Gretna Sunday morning around 8 a.m., where they were able to refuel thanks to McKinney's Grocery Store. Their final destination was about 14 miles away at Nebraska Brewing Company in La Vista.
“Supplied drinks, Powerades, Gatorades, protein bars, anything to kind of help that last push to the finish line,” McKinney’s manager Lynne Workman said.
McKinney’s Grocery Store, a family-run business, provided all those refreshments for free. It came after Workman, whose husband participated in the march, asked the McKinney family if they would be interested in helping out.
“Anything military wise you don’t say no,” McKinney's owner Robert McKinney said. “You just go with it and work it from there.”
“Listen, we are grateful just to be able to stand in this parking lot and form back up,” Miralles said.
There are no overhead costs for the march as everything is donated.
All the money raised is going to two local organizations: Guitarists for Vets, which helps veterans fight PTSD and mental health issues, and Moving Veterans Forward, which helps homeless vets get back on their feet.
“They're tiny and they make an impact right here, and the money with those two go a long, long way,” Miralles said. “We are excited about our $50,000 goal.”
That $50,000 goal was surpassed by 10 a.m. Sunday morning.
It was a grueling fundraiser with one thing in mind.
“When you walk 50 miles, you’re undistracted. There’s only one thing you are thinking about – it’s that veteran. It’s that veteran that you’re serving right now,” Miralles said. “Someone who is sleeping on the ground, doesn’t know what their next meal is, or they are one day away from suicide. That’s who we’re serving.”
The fundraiser ends Sunday at midnight. If you would like to donate or check out the running total, you can click here.