UI Veterans' Warrior Challenge gives back

Published: March 30 2014 | 9:50 am - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 10:20 am in

An American flag fluttered in the wind as the National Anthem rung out across a silent crowd. On the sunny morning, veterans stood with civilians, all paying homage to continuing a familiar phrase: "Support Our Troops."

"It's a good cause, I work at the [Iowa City Veterans Affairs] hospital and work with a lot of vets I admire," said Iowa City resident Steven Sperry said. "I think it's an interesting aspect [to be doing the same activities veterans do]."

The  third year of the "Warrior Challenge" — an obstacle course designed to mimic activities done in military training — was marked Sunday morning. It is held by the UI Veteran's Association [UIVA], who donate proceeds each year to various organizations such as the Wounded Warrior Project and the Johnson County Military Affairs Association. This year, due to the high success rate in participants, the UIVA is able to donate to both those organizations for the third consecutive year, as well as the Fisher Foundation; they will each receive a one thousand dollar check.

"It's nice knowing we're actually going to be giving the money," said Cassidy Watson, volunteer coordinator for the challenge. "And now we won't have to buy all the supplies, so we won't have to buy as much in the future and hope to give even more [to the organizations]."

There were roughly 500 participants  in the University of Iowa recreation center, who did a variety of activities such as running up the stairs at Kinnick Stadium and carrying 20 pound sandbags over an obstacle course. UIVA raised $10,000 from the challenge, which will be donated to the chosen organizations as well as used to pay for the materials used during the event.

The revamped course is loosely based on Men's Health Urbanathlon, which means focusing less on the 5k the association has done in the past, and more on comprehensive activities that will give participants an idea of the type of exercises veterans have experienced. Watson said the Warrior's Challenge gives community members the chance to learn the values that are taught in the military.

"The reason behind doing this is to keep up the military values," she said. "Things like teamwork and cooperation. It helps test you physically and mentally; it's hard to do, but it's possible. You just have to be mentally tough."

Carol Middle School eighth grade teacher Rachel Menken said she has done similar races to this in the past such as the Tough Mudder race, and was looking for another demanding course that tested her abilities.

"I like to do competitions, and I did some research to find out some conditioning competitions and this seemed like a good fit," she said. "I want to promote health and also support for veterans. I just wanted to see what they go through."

She also brought 15 of her eighth grade students who were interested in doing the course, as well as being able to support the military.

"I like track and to stay in shape so I thought it would be fun to cheer each other on," said fourteen-year-old Bailey Fountain, whose father was in the Army.  "[As for joining the military], I want to help people but I don't know if I have the courage to risk my life [like my father]."



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