DECATUR– Local pharmacist and Vietnam War veteran Ron Stephens began his annual trek across Illinois on Tuesday to raise money to support combat veterans who were injured in action.
Despite heavy rains and high winds on Tuesday morning, Stephens set out from Dale’s Southlake Pharmacy shortly after 10 am and headed north towards Colee’s Corner Drugs in Forsyth, located off Rt. 51 just north of the mall.
“As a former soldier, the one thing I can do is walk and it is an honor to carry the American flag and walk for our fallen service members who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country,” Stephens said.
Tuesday marked the 4th year that Stephens participated in raising money for the Wounded Warrior Foundation. In years past his walks have taken him to the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge that connects Illinois and St. Louis, and just last year Stephens walked from Decatur to the Abe Lincoln Memorial Cemetery near Elwood, Illinois.
“Erica and I heard about this at a conference when we heard a wounded veteran speak and we knew we wanted to be involved,” Dale’s Southlake Pharmacy owner Dale Colee said. “It just so happened that Ron is a Vietnam War veteran and was up for it and we have been going strong ever since.”
Colee said they expected to raise a couple thousand dollars for the Wounded Warrior Project, but in the three years leading up to this year they have raised over $100,000. Since the project began, several independent pharmacies have joined the mission and the Cardinal Health Foundation matches all of their proceeds. “We are expecting to raise between fifty and sixty thousand dollars this year with everybody on board, and that will be matched dollar for dollar,” Colee added.
This year Stephens said he doesn’t have a particular destination in mind, he is letting those who donate choose how many and in which direction he walks by writing a note along with their donations.
“We have been able to raise so much money for a great cause these last few years and the community of Decatur and Macon County has been responsible for that, this year we are letting them decide where I go,” Stephens said.
Monetary donations can be delivered to help Ron on his mission by going to Dale’s Southlake Pharmacy in South Shores, or Colee’s Corner Drugs in Forsyth off of Rt. 51 until July 4th.