TOMS RIVER, NJ — Participants in the 5th annual Operation: Ruck It will be marching in various locations on Saturday morning as they raise funds for Ma Deuce Deuce, a local nonprofit that assists veterans in need.
The event consists of a 22-kilometer march, with a suggestion for participants to carry 22 pounds of weight in a backpack, with the 22 signifying the number of veterans who die by suicide each day, the group says.
Ma Deuce Deuce was co-founded and is headed by U.S. Marine Corps veteran Dennis Addesso, a Toms River native, and has been helping local veterans since 2016.
The march, which drew 500 ruckers and 300 additional supporters in 2016, was held virtually in 2020 and had 240 participants. Because of ongoing issues from the COVID-19 pandemic, the event is virtual in 2021, but many of the participating teams are said to be meeting at the Manasquan Reservoir this weekend.
The 2021 effort had raised more than $34,000 so far, with a goal of $40,000. To encourage donations, Addesso has offered to wear a wedding dress during the event if the group raisesi $40,000.
In previous years Addesso shaved off his beard at the $50,000 mark but the group said his wife nixed that for 2021.
Funds from the event are used to alleviate unmet needs for local veterans.