Photos by Brett Robbins
It’s about 11:45 a.m. on Wednesday, May 17, and Brett Robbins, Public Affairs Officer for Salem VA Medical Center, along with his colleagues are ready to start the Annual VA2K Walk and Roll held on the campus of Salem VA Medical Center.
Now in its seventh year, the purpose of the fundraiser is to raise donations for homeless Veterans. Open to Salem VA Medical Center staff as well as Veterans and the public, individuals have the option of preregistering or registering the day of the event.
“No person that served our great Nation in uniform should be homeless. The VA2K Walk and Roll event is a great way to increase awareness and the donations we receive are given to Veterans in our local community that have barriers to housing,” Robbins said. “This is a chance for us to give back to our Veterans who were willing to give so much for us. The VA2K is not just specific to Salem VA Medical Center, the event is held nationally at every VA Medical Center in the country on the third Wednesday of May.”
Planning for this year’s event began at the end of 2016. “The planning began about six months ago. We had a meeting to get ideas down after the event last year, but the bulk of the planning and all the work started in January,” Brett said.
More than 19,500 Veteran Affairs employees and 8,100 veterans at more than 160 VA locations nationwide participated in the 2016 VA Walk and Roll. “11 percent of the nationwide homeless population is Veterans. Nationally approximately 155,000 Veterans have been reached by donations over the years,” Brett said. “Our goal this year was to receive at least $2,000 in donations. We ended up receiving $2,245 in physical donations and $282 in monetary donations.”
Participants were once again encouraged to donate toiletries, socks and underwear among other items. Roanoke County resident Tyler Howard knows first-hand the impact that giving back to veterans can have. “I come from a family of military Veterans,” he said. “After serving 20 years in the Army, my dad came home and it took him some time to get a job that offered stability. Had it not been for people going above and beyond the call of service, things would have been significantly worse.”
Brett Robbins wants people to know there are several things they can do to help homeless Veterans. “Sign up to participate in next year’s VA2K Walk and Roll event and bring a donation. Donations are not required; however, we are encouraging participants to donate,” he said. “We start collecting donations at the beginning of May, however Salem VA Medical Center’s Voluntary Services can receive donations throughout the year.”