Team USO Runner Inspired by Fallen Soldier’s Sacrifice

Kenneth Bean graduated high school in the small town of Mansfield, Mo., alongside a school record 41 of his peers, just one year ahead of his friend and fellow baseball player Robert Pharris.

Kenneth Bean with his granddaughters after the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon. Photos courtesy of Kenneth Bean

Kenneth Bean with his granddaughters after the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon. Photos courtesy of Kenneth Bean

Pharris was the son of a farmer and a Marine who served in both Korea and Vietnam. He was the grandson of a farmer and World War II vet, and the great-grandson of a farmer and World War I vet. Once retired from the Army, Pharris deployed with the Missouri National Guard at 48 years old to serve alongside his son Benjamin — a Marine — in Afghanistan.

In January 2011, Pharris was attacked and killed by insurgents while serving as an agricultural specialist, helping to rebuild the local Afghan economy.

Bean – who’d just been diagnosed with obesity and high blood pressure when he heard about Pharris’ death – was greatly affected by the loss.

“What did I do to deserve one more day than him?” he asked himself.

Motivated by the service and sacrifice of the Pharris family, Bean decided to lose the weight and live a better life for himself, so he can be around longer his own family.

“I was up to almost 270 pounds,” he said. “The doctor said I had high blood pressure and he was going to put me on medication for it. It really worried me and I asked him if I could try something else instead.”

Bean began a strict cardio regimen. He located a place about five minutes from his home in Columbus, Ohio, where he knew he could get the kind of workout he needed. A hilly part of the countryside he now calls his haven.

“I knew I was going to need hills, so I found hills. Lots of them,” he said. “And the more I ran, the more I found I could run longer and farther.”

Bean began posting his longer and longer run results on Facebook where his friends and family encouraged him. A former supervisor from Wright-Patterson Airfield saw Bean had run for two straight hours and asked Bean if he was training for the Air Force Marathon.

“I laughed at him and said, ‘No way! I have no desire to run a marathon.’”

But the supervisor pressed on.

“’What about a half?’ he asked me. ‘Would you try a half?’ And that’s how I first ended up running a half-marathon,” Bean said.

Robert Pharris, who grew up with Bean, was killed in Afghanistan in 2011.

Robert Pharris, who grew up with Bean, was killed in Afghanistan in 2011.

Bean didn’t have a detailed plan, but he started training with the goal of running a half marathon in honor of his friend. Unfortunately when it came time to register for the race, it was sold out. He was heartbroken.

He contacted the race officials and they suggested he go through a charity sponsor.

“I looked at their charity sponsors and immediately the USO stood out,” he said. “It was the obvious choice [considering the relevance of the Pharris family’s service] and I thought wow — you know, this is really cool.”

Bean signed up with Team USO and pledged to raise $3,000 in exchange for a free training plan and a website where his friends and family could donate. With the support of his family, he completed his first marathon at the 2012 Air Force Marathon.

“My wife, family and friends have been supportive from day one,” Bean said. “though [they were] a little hesitant in understanding why, exactly, I was doing this.

“After reading some of my training journals, however, my wife started to get it, which even made our relationship stronger, and now when I go out on a training run … she’s coming along and she has even started to help coach me.”

It’s been a little over two years since he first began training in the memory of his friend. Bean is only 10 pounds short of his goal weight of 210, and he has completed a marathon and raised more than $1,000 for troops and their families.

Bean plans to run four races this year, all for the USO and Pharris’ memory. His final race will be the Marine Corps Marathon in Arlington, Va., this October, where his wife, children and grandchildren plan to be at the finish line to cheer him in.

“I am matching my donations up to $100,” he posted on his Team USO fundraiser page. “Please, help me, help the USO for the troops. They are far away from home.”

–Story by Joseph Andrew Lee, USO Staff Writer

Are You a Rugged Maniac? Join Team USO

How far are you willing to go to support our troops? Would you leap over burning coals? Low-crawl through the mud under barbed wire? Traverse cargo netting, hop through a series of tires and navigate a balance beam over a pit?

If you want an opportunity to challenge your endurance and reach physical goals you never thought possible in support of troops and their families, then you should join Team USO this year for a Rugged Maniac 5K Obstacle Race.

“We’re very excited about the good things we can accomplish together,” Rugged Races CEO Bradford Scudder said. “The USO’s mission aligns with that of Rugged Maniac by recognizing and supporting our troops and their families.”

Rugged Maniac – which has announced 22 events in 2013 and expects more than 200,000 participants – hopes to raise $1 million in support of the USO.

“It’s a realistic goal,” Scudder said. “If each of our participants donates $5, we’ll get there. And this is a wonderful cause, so of course there will be individuals who’ll go above and beyond that $5 donation.”

From boot camp to battlefield back home again, the USO is the only organization that always stands by the side of troops and their families. Team USO members are crucial to supporting that cause.

–Video and Story by Joseph Andrew Lee, USO Staff Writer

N.C.-Based Women’s Club Hosts First USO Barbecue for the Troops

Army Maj. Gen. (Ret.) James Mallory poses with former Statesville (N.C.) Woman's Club President Ellenora Barker - who served in the WAVES during World War II -- at the club's USO Barbecue for the Troops event May 16. Photo courtesy of the Statesville (N.C.) Woman's Club

Army Maj. Gen. (Ret.) James Mallory poses with former Statesville (N.C.) Woman’s Club President Ellenora Barker at the club’s USO Barbecue for the Troops event May 16. Photo courtesy of the Statesville (N.C.) Woman’s Club

They’re already firing up their grills in North Carolina for the USO’s Barbecue for the Troops campaign.

Statesville, N.C., was the site of the first official USO Barbecue for the Troops on May 16. The Statesville Woman’s Club raised $850 with their May 16 barbecue luncheon, which featured guest speaker Army Maj. Gen. (Ret) James Mallory.

“It was a wonderful opportunity to help out a great cause, show off our club’s patriotic spirit, and be a leader for our [General Federation of Women’s Clubs],” club president Fran Baker wrote in an email to the USO.

Click here to find out more about the USO’s Barbeque for the Troops campaign, including how to host your own event.

–Story by USO Story Development

FIJI Islander Events Raise Over $10k for USO South Carolina

Get together for the troops!

Get together for the troops!

The stakes were high as the brothers of Phi Gamma Delta at the College of Charleston started planning their FIJI Islander event to support the USO.  They knew they wanted to go big in support of America’s troops and families.  And big they went.  They didn’t just hold one event.  No!  They held at least one event every day for an entire week and in the end donated over $10,000 to support USO South Carolina.

FIJI Islander week kicked off on Sunday April 14th with a basketball tournament. The hoops for troops event offered cash prizes and a trophy for the winners.  Before the FIJI brothers could reap the success of their first event they were on to event number two.  On Monday, students on campus lined up for a rare opportunity to dunk a princess in the dunk tank.  As you can imagine, this was a popular event.  Later that night the fundraising continued as everyone headed over to Freshberry where a percentage of the proceeds went to support the USO.

Moving on to day three of fundraising, on Tuesday night, a percentage of the proceeds from dinner at Boones supported the USO.    Then on Wednesday, a school yard event we all loved as children — a kickball tournament – would get sororities and fraternities on the field together kicking a ball around for a good cause.

This fraternity isn’t done yet.  On Thursday campus beauties participated in the Princess Pageant complete with talent competition.  And Finally on Saturday the big finale FIJI Islander party to celebrate a week of successful fundraising.

This FIJI chapter’s donation will go to support troops where it is needed most.  Today’s USO is always by their side, continuously adapting to the needs of our troops and their families by supporting and comforting, connecting and entertaining in new and imaginative ways. USO’s programs and services are made possible by the support of donors like these. - Lisa Ferrari Carter, USO Relationship Manager, Clubs & Organizations

Are You A Rugged Maniac? Series of Obstacle Races Support Team USO

How far are you willing to go to support our troops?

Would you leap over burning coals? Low-crawl through the mud under barbed wire? Traverse cargo netting, hop through a series of tires and navigate a balance beam over a pit?

The USO was well-represented at the May 4 Rugged Maniac 5K Obstacle Race in Richmond, Va. USO photos by Joseph Andrew Lee

The USO was well-represented at the May 4 Rugged Maniac 5K Obstacle Race in Richmond, Va. USO photos by Joseph Andrew Lee

If you want an opportunity to challenge your endurance and reach physical goals you never thought possible in support of troops and their families, then you should join Team USO this year in the Rugged Maniac 5K Obstacle Race.

“We’re very excited about the good things we can accomplish together,” said Rugged Races CEO Bradford Scudder. “The USO’s mission aligns with that of Rugged Maniac by recognizing and supporting our troops and their families.”

Rugged Maniac – which has announced 22 events in 2013 and expects more than 200,000 participants – hopes to raise $1 million in support of the USO.

“It’s a realistic goal,” Scudder said. “If each of our participants donates $5, we’ll get there. And this is a wonderful cause, so of course there will be individuals who’ll go above and beyond that $5 donation.”

As an official Team USO fundraiser, each participant’s goal is to raise $300 for troops and their families. In turn, the USO will deliver free training designed to fit each runner’s lifestyle, a fully customizable personal fundraising webpage, coaching, mentoring, registration to the event of your choice and a Team USO T-shirt to wear at the event.

From boot camp to battlefield back home again, the USO is the only organization that always stands by the side of troops and their families.

“Being able to stop in just about any airport in the United States and around the world … in every country I’ve ever been deployed to, there’s always a USO there that’s set up,” said Fort Lee NCO Academy 1st Sgt. Charles Badgley after the Rugged Maniac 5K in Richmond, Va. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a trailer, or if it’s a tent, or whatever the case may be, it gives us that touch of home, and we know that it’s almost 100 percent volunteer effort to give back to the soldiers so, it’s a really great thing.”

Team USO will enter teams in Rugged Maniac races around the country from now through December.

Team USO will enter teams in Rugged Maniac races around the country from now through December.

Team USO members are crucial to supporting that cause. On race day, they get VIP treatment including free parking and race photos from the official photographer. All the money raised by Team USO participants goes directly to their local USO.

“We’ve run in a couple of these and for us, because fitness is such a big deal, you know, and you have to make it exciting for yourself, this is one of the best ways to do it,” Badgley said. “It’s good to get out here and bang your knees up a little bit but also get a good run in at the same time.” – Joseph Andrew Lee, USO Staff Writer

Apple Valley Optimist Club Recieves USO/Optimist International Patch

Members of the Apple Valley Optimist Club at Los Domingos on April 2, 2013 (Photo Credit: Apple Valley Optimist Club)

Members of the Apple Valley Optimist Club at Los Domingos on April 2, 2013 (Photo Credit: Apple Valley Optimist Club)

The Apple Valley Optimist Club has reached their goal of raising $1000 to support United Through Reading’s Military Program. The USO along with its partner United Through Reading® give deployed troops the opportunity to record themselves reading books to their children, and the recordings are then mailed back to the family along with a copy of the book.

“Think how wonderful it would be for these children to have something so memorable, not to mention the moral support this offers to the parent at home,” Apple Valley Club Chairwoman Julie Whittingham said.

For the past year, the Apple Valley Optimist Club has tirelessly held various fundraisers to support this program. Some of the events the club held includes partnering with their local Barnes & Noble’s to gift wrap books over the holidays. The club also had a booth at a local festival fairgrounds passing out information to the general public asking them to step up and support the United Through Reading’s Military Program through the USO.

The Apple Valley Optimist Club was the first Optimist Club to receive the USO/Optimist International commemorative patch for their outstanding support of military families. All Optimist Clubs raising $1,000 or more earn this patch. Congratulations, Apple Valley Optimist Club!