By Neil Fater Editor
The Andover Townsman
---- — Next spring’s Run for the Troops Road Race through Andover may benefit both local veterans and others who have returned from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, says Bill Pennington, race organizer. Pennington has incorporated the race, allowing it more flexibility in its focus.
In previous years the race has benefitted Homes for Our Troops, a national organization that raises money to build and donate free, handicap accessible homes to troops injured serving in Afghanistan or Iraq. Pennington started the race in Andover three years ago to raise money for that national effort, and now hopes to add an Andover-specific element, too, he said.
“The focus will always be Homes for Our Troops, but if there’s a cause that people want to present -- a local cause or need -- we can [add it]. Being a corporation now, we’re not limited to Homes for Our Troops support,” he said.
The annual dinner before the race is moving from Old Town Hall in downtown Andover to the significantly larger rooms available at the Wyndham Andover Hotel on Old River Road. Pennington said this will allow the dinner and auction to hold 500 people instead of about 200.
“The dinner will be a much bigger event than in previous years,” said Pennington. “What we’re also trying to do is have a live [video] feed to a battalion somewhere in the world so they can see what we’re doing.”
The dinner will be April 5, with the race will be run during the morning of April 7. Money raised for Homes for Our Troops will help build a free, adapted home in Coventry, R.I. for Marine Cpl. Kevin Dubois of Rhode Island, said Pennington.
“He’s currently in San Diego recovering from injuries. He lost both his legs at the hip after stepping on an IED [improved explosive device] in Afghanistan,” he said. The Wyndham has donated rooms for soldiers who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan who would like to attend the April dinner and race. Joe Smith, who benefited from the Andover race two years ago and returned for last year’s event, has said he plans to return for the 2013 race, too.