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Participants of the second annual Road March for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital rest at the halfway point in Twentynine Palms, Calif., Dec. 10, 2016. Mark Gelekto, tactical training support, 7th Marine Regiment, organized the event to raise money to donate to children in need. (Official Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Thomas Mudd/Released)

Photo by Cpl. Thomas Mudd

Charity hike builds camaraderie

19 Dec 2016 | Cpl. Thomas Mudd Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

Combat Center patrons participated in the second annual Road March for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Dec. 10, 2016.

Mark Gelekto, tactical training support, 7th Marine Regiment, organized the road march on his birthday. This year’s route took participants from Desert Winds Golf Course to Kimi Grill in Yucca Valley, Calif., 56 kilometers away. The distance of the march corresponds with Gelekto’s age.

“I started [the road march] last year on my birthday. I made it a charity event, because I’m always donating to St Jude’s and I wanted to do more,” Gelekto said. “I like pushing myself and trying to push others as well. I figured that with something like this we could do both.”

Approximately 20 participants were asked to find sponsors for the march, with the goal of raising $5,000. Throughout the march, checkpoints provided respite to ensure all the participants had time to rest before continuing as a group.

“I heard about this because Mark is my coach for [mixed martial arts] and he asked me if I wanted to participate,” said Lance Cpl. Xavier Vines, tactical air operations module technician, Marine Corps Communication-Electronics School. “It is not every day that we get to do something like this. On top of that, we are also getting to raise money for a good cause.”

The march lasted approximately 12 hours and took the participants down Highway 62, the main thoroughfare through the Morongo Basin. Those who attended found a sense of camaraderie and pride in finishing the hike.

“There is a sense of accomplishment when you finally reach the end of this hike,” Gelekto said. “Last year’s wiped everyone out, but it felt good knowing that we could all still do it and that what we are doing will help children in need.”

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms