The 2015 Boston Marathon will be Peter Walker’s second, but this year he wanted to raise money for a good cause. That’s when he discovered the Watertown-based charity that sends care packages to American troops overseas.
Walker searched for a charity and got a suggestion while he was dining.
“I was in Conley’s in Watertown talking with someone,” Walker said. “I said it would be nice to run for a foundation. They suggested Operation American Soldier. This local organization, which is all volunteers, survives off grants and donations.”
He met with the founders of Operation American Soldier, Wendy and John Rocca of Watertown. The group’s headquarters are in the basement of the Charles Shutt Detachment, Marine Corps League on Mt. Auburn St. in Watertown.
“When I went to meet them they said nobody had done anything like this for them before. They were grateful,” Walker said.
The Roccas started the effort when John’s daughter was being deployed to Iraq in 2002.
“My step daughter was in a staging area in Kuwait when we first knew that people need supplies,” Wendy said.
The Roccas have plenty of experience sending packages of their own. Wendy’s step daughter did two tours, each of their sons did a tour and their son’s fiancee did two tours.
Operation American Soldier sends care packages full of snacks, toiletries, magazines and a letter. They get tips about servicemen and women overseas from friends, through their website and by word of mouth, Wendy said. This weekend they will meet with a few hundred soldiers who are about to deploy.
“We tell them we will send them a care package,” Wendy said. “Once they are there, others in their unit say they want a care package too.”
Walker said he is not a runner. In fact he is a champion ballroom dancer. In 2012 he won the U.S. National Pro Am Open Standard and Closed Standard championships.
He co-owns the Avalon Dance & Fitness Studio on Trapelo Road in Belmont, which will be the location of his fundraiser for Operation American Soldier.
“We will have a social dance with a DJ and live performances by professionals,” Walker said.
The event will be Saturday, April 18 from 6:30-9 p.m at Avalon Dance & Fitness Studio, 345 Trapelo Road in Belmont. Tickets are available on the studio’s website www.avalondanceandfitness.com.
The money raised will go toward Operation American Soldier’s main expenses – postage and items to put in the packages, Wendy said.