Op-ed: Freedom Steps taking big strides to help soldiers

By State Rep. Tom Murt

For our men and women in uniform who are deployed in the War on Terror to places like Iraq or Afghanistan, many are lucky to have loved ones back home sending them care packages with things like snacks, toiletries, Skittles, Slim Jims and other items that they can’t get in a combat zone. Sadly, some soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and Coast Guardsmen don’t always have the same level of support back home that others have. Freedom Steps has been supporting these and all of our troops.

In 2008, Willow Grove VFW Post 3612 started an event called Freedom Steps after it received a commonwealth grant and decided to use the funds for an event to benefit soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and Coast Guardsmen, especially those who were currently serving overseas. The Willow Grove VFW had a close connection with active troops at Willow Grove JRNAS and remain close with the units at what is now called the Horsham Air Guard Station. However, over time, Freedom Steps grew larger and became its own entity, becoming an official 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Freedom Steps now has a full committee of volunteers who meet on a monthly basis to plan the annual 5K Race, continue to pack boxes and secure donations of supplies, etc. Freedom Steps also participates in other community events that support our military and the local organizations that support Freedom Steps.

Freedom Steps was created to raise awareness for military personnel from our community who are deployed overseas and who do not have the comforts of being at home. The money raised from throughout the year is used to purchase supplies and ship them to military units all around the world. Thanks to the support of local businesses, the community and the Upper Moreland Parks and Recreation Department, Freedom Steps has been able to host a very popular 5K each year at Masons Mill Park and have all the registration fees go directly to our troops. The income from the sponsors is more than enough to cover expenses from race day, with the remainder going directly to our men and women who are deployed. No one within the organization receives any income from Freedom Steps, as all income goes directly to support our troops.

This May, Freedom Steps will celebrate its 10th annual 5K race and will look back with great pride at the amazing growth of the event and the Freedom Steps organization. The first race had only 45 participants, and that number has increased to almost 300. The number of boxes sent overseas has also increased over the years and to date, the group has shipped over 500 boxes to our troops, each box containing items for about 10 individuals, and weighing anywhere from 15 to 60 pounds. It is the goal to mail these supplies and gifts to our troops in hopes that a “little taste of home” brings a smile to their face and bolsters morale.

If you have a loved one who is serving in our military, or if you know of a soldier, sailor, Marine, airman or Coast Guardsman deployed or being deployed and would like for them to receive a package from the event, please email FreedomSteps5k@gmail.com, and be sure to include rank, name, address, length of deployment and an estimated number of men/women in their unit.

You can also send their name and address to Freedom Steps, Box 118, Willow Grove, PA 19090 or go to freedomsteps5k.com, and Freedom Steps will be sure to get them care packages as quickly as possible.

This year’s 10th annual Freedom Steps 5K Race and Walk will take place on Sunday, May 7, at Masons Mill Park. Registration begins at 8 a.m., followed by the national anthem and welcome remarks at 8:45, with the race and walk starting at 9:15 sharp.

If you are interested in participating, or in volunteering at the event, please go to freedomsteps5k.com

We continue to pray for our men and women in uniform, and thank them for the many sacrifices they make so we can live in peace here in the United States. We can do even more than send our prayers. Please consider supporting Freedom Steps by volunteering or by participating in the annual race/walk. ••

Rep. Murt serves the 152nd Legislative District. He served in Iraq with the 4th Infantry Division in 2003–2004.