About Team Minnesota WWP

p { margin-bottom: 0.21cm; }

Running came into my life at a critical juncture. I was coping with the strain of two deployments and the end of a serious relationship, and at that point it was the only thing that gave me joy and a daily focus. Lily Tomlin once said that “exercise is for people who can’t handle drugs or alcohol.” For the record, I agree with that statement, and I’m grateful to have had something like running to help me avoid those pitfalls and stay functional. It smoothed out the rough patches. I would daydream about traveling to races and competing in interesting places, one of which was the TransRockies Run, a 115 mile, 6 day stage race in the Colorado Rockies. And, at a particularly trying point, a close family friend, Air Force veteran Tom Cocchiarella, offered to financially support me in that dream race.
When I finished those long, mountain miles and finished the TransRockies Run, I felt so…grateful…and thought about all the other veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, especially the severely wounded, and how much they might find their spirits uplifted by a similar experience. It’s that sensation you get when you cross a finish line. The amazing difference between the moment before, when your whole body yells “stop, I’ve had enough!” to hitting the line and that flash of “I did it! I made it!” Everyone should get to feel that emotion, especially severely wounded veterans.
I had long felt that this was a population of veterans that’s been underserved and underappreciated. They bear fundamentally life altering scars which render sports nearly impossible in the process. I had heard about the Wounded Warrior Project’s efforts at getting severely wounded soldiers back into athletics by providing the things the government cannot quite afford: ski trips to Colorado and adaptive road bicycles for serious cycling. I said to myself that if someone (Tom) invested in my recovery as a veteran, then why couldn’t I do the same for others? So, knowing how difficult it is to raise money while living an itinerant military lifestyle, I went back to Tom and asked him to help me.
On Veteran’s Day 2008, Tom and I launched “Team Wounded Warrior Project.” We dedicated ourselves to raising money and awareness on behalf of the Wounded Warrior Project, a non-profit (IRS Section 501(c)(3)) organization whose core mission is to “honor and empower [severely] Wounded Warriors.” Since then, we’ve raised approximately $100,000, become the organization’s top individual fundraisers, spoken to numerous audiences, received local and national press coverage, and touched millions of Americans through Team WWP’s efforts. We did this primarily through my endurance and ultra running events, roughly 500 cumulative racing miles since we started. So why the running?
Running is the thing that I do best; it’s my “megaphone.” My ultimate goal is to redirect the attention my running generates onto our nation’s severely wounded veterans and the Wounded Warrior Project organization. These soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines – their physical and mental limits are tested daily in the most unfair and harshest ways. In their honor, I’ve dedicated myself to pushing beyond my physical and mental limits. It’s a small token of my respect for their sacrifice, and I can truly say that I’ve extended myself on their behalf. At the two-year mark, I had to spend six months on the mend for a variety of wear and tear sustained while keeping to an ambitious racing schedule: a serious patella tendon injury, a broken foot, an ugly ingrown and three ripped off toenails and a plantar wart for good measure. All that said, considering the gains we’ve made, I wouldn’t trade it for anything (well, maybe another $100,000!). As an active duty military officer, this my way to communicate to the broader public my feelings as to where they should direct their hard earned charitable donations. The Wounded Warrior Project is worthy of both my sweat and tears and your financial support, and my sincere hope is that you come to the same conclusion that I have.
Roughly 2500 years ago, the marathon’s story was born when the Athenian army defeated the invading Persians at the Battle of Marathon. The messenger Pheidippides was dispatched to run the 25 miles or so back to Athens to report the outcome; it is legend that he ran the entire distance without stopping. Before dying of severe exhaustion, with his last breath Pheidippides proclaimed, “Nenikekamen!” (“We are victorious!”). My wish is to support the WWP with the same zeal and indefatigable spirit, to finish this effort proclaiming that we have been victorious in our efforts and used up every ounce of energy available in their honor. They have given so much of themselves for our benefit; how could we do any less? Join Team WWP!

Click on this button to make a secure donation to Team Minnesota WWP!

All My Best and Keep Moving Forward, Matt