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The Rev. John Cooper Jr. is walking more than 200 miles to raise funds for military members in need. (Submitted photo)
The Rev. John Cooper Jr. is walking more than 200 miles to raise funds for military members in need. (Submitted photo)

Cooper rucking 222 miles to raise funds for homeless veterans in WNY


Mon, Mar 4th 2024 10:00 am

Niagara Gospel Mission Press Release

The Rev. John Cooper Jr., executive director of Niagara Gospel Mission at 1317 Portage Road, Niagara Falls, is rucking 222 miles before Easter to raise funds to expand the RECON recovery program for homeless veterans in Western New York.

“I was challenged to walk a mile in a homeless person’s shoes, so I am doing 222 of them,” Cooper said.

“As a former infantryman in the Army, I know what it is like to walk everywhere and have your life on your back – that is why I am doing this; to walk some miles in their shoes,” he added.

Rucking is marching with weight on your back for miles. In the military, soldiers put all their gear in their rucksacks and live out of them for months at a time.

“When I was a sniper, my bag would typically weigh 120 pounds,” Cooper said. “I’m glad it doesn’t weigh that now.”

Cooper is rucking around Niagara Falls and greater Niagara County for 222 miles with a goal of finishing before Easter on March 31. He has already rucked more than 67 miles.

"I want to walk where the people who come to our mission are walking," he said.

Niagara Gospel Mission serves homeless men in Niagara Falls, housing 100 men a night and serving dinner to hundreds of people in the surrounding community who are in need.

The agency is currently in the planning process of starting a women’s emergency shelter.

Funds raised by rucking will go to the RECON program, which is the recovery program at the NGM. The agency stated 70% of all the homeless veterans who have come to NGM enter this program to work on the root issues that lead to addiction and recovery.

“I am doing this to hopefully add six more rooms to the RECON program so we can bring hope to more of my veteran brothers who are experiencing homelessness," Copper said.

To follow his journey, visit the Niagara Gospel Mission's YouTube or Facebook page. To donate, go to https://www.gofundme.com/f/222-miles-for-homeless-vets-in-western-new-york or on the missions website at niagaragospelmission.org.

Niagara Gospel Mission is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit providing services to the homeless and poor. Visit niagaragospemission.org to learn more.

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