News Articles

Twenty-Two Miles a Day for Their Fellow Veterans

By Jim Sliney Jr.

Washington State. March 22, 2019. Jimmy Novack walks southeastwards.

Oregon. April 15, 2019. Tommy Zurhellen walks eastwards.

Every day since, for 4+ months, these men walked 22 miles a day. Their goal? To cross the United States on foot, to raise money and to raise awareness for veteran behavioral health issues and homelessness. And wow, did they raise awareness! Just check out these from the over-50 news stories written about them.

Veteran walking across America to raise awareness of veteran suicides – WSLS.com

Upstate NY veteran begins long walk across America, 22 miles a day – NewYorkUpstate.com

Veteran walks from Washington state to Disney World to raise suicide awareness – NYPost.com

Navy vet walks across country for homelessness, mental illness – NYPost.com

TOMMY ZURHELLEN and JIMMY NOVAK

TOMMY ZURHELLEN is a Navy veteran and the commander of the Poughkeepsie Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 170. He is also an associate professor of English at Marist College. His walk from Oregon to New York took 4 months, and raised $45,000 for the VeteranZero project.

“VetZero is the official veteran service project of VFW Post 170 in Poughkeepsie, NY. We've been making a difference in our hometown since 1919, and now in 2019, we have more than 176 combat veterans and their families who call VFW Post 170 home. We're on a mission to reach ZERO veteran suicides and ZERO veteran homelessness in our community -- and hopefully, in our nation.”

JIMMY NOVAK is a retired Army sergeant first class. He walked from his home in Washington State to Disney World in Florida (he arrived on his birthday and met his family there), all to raise awareness of behavioral health problems in the veteran population.

“So, what I hope to do by being out here is to encourage people who are struggling with anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts to reach out and seek help early. I want people to know that the journey to recovery is not about getting to a certain place, it is about getting one foot in front of the other and continuing on your journey. It is not about where I’m going, it is about taking the journey to get there.”

WHY 22 MILES A DAY?

Both men set a goal to walk 22 miles each day from start to finish. 22 miles represents the 22 veterans who commit suicide each day (according to a Dept of Veterans Affairs 2015 study). Both men also completed their journeys safely.

Jimmy Novak, you just walked 3,000 miles to help veterans. Where are you going now? – miamiherald.com

Poughkeepsie veteran returns home from walk across America – Poughkeepsiejournal.com

CATHOLIC CHARITIES OF NEW YORK AND THE MENTALLY ILL

Catholic Charities offers a range of housing options for people struggling with mental illness. These are not for veterans exclusively, but veterans are included. The housing CCNY provides is integrated into the community, offering small community residences with closely supervised group-living arrangements for people with severe mental illness. They also offer apartments and single rooms with readily available support staff for higher functioning individuals. You can learn more about the services here.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

No one expects you to walk across the nation. Though if you do, let us know! But you can get involved in a few vital ways:

  1. Become a VOLUNTEER! - Volunteers are essential in working with staff to manifest Catholic Charities' mission to deliver, coordinate and advocate for quality human services and programs.
  2. Make a DONATION! – Your gift will help Catholic Charities meet the growing demand for their diverse areas of service. We need your help to provide help to others and to create hope.
  3. Spread the Word! – Every new set of eyes that sees what Catholic Charities is doing has the potential become a volunteer or donor who can make a difference for people in need. You can see what we are doing:
    1. On the Catholic Charities of New York Facebook Page
    2. Read about CCNY’s activities on Twitter
    3. See what CCNY is getting involved in on Instagram
    4. Keep up on Catholic Charities in the News
    5. You can even listen to what CCNY is up to on Monsignor Sullivan’s JustLove podcast

When you learn about something Catholic Charities is doing that you think is important, tell others.

It’s not the same thing as taking over 5.4 million steps to cross this great nation like Tommy and Jimmy did, but every contribution makes an impact.