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The Rev. John Cooper Jr. on his 222-mile ruck march. (Submitted photo)
The Rev. John Cooper Jr. on his 222-mile ruck march. (Submitted photo)

Cooper finishing 222-mile ruck to raise funds for homeless veterans


Wed, Mar 27th 2024 09:00 pm

Trek concludes on Good Friday

On Good Friday, Niagara Gospel Mission Executive Director the Rev. John Cooper Jr. will finish his 222-mile ruck march to raise funds to expand the RECON recovery program for homeless veterans. His march will conclude at 11 a.m. at the Hyde Park Veterans Memorial in Niagara Falls.

“It took a while, but rucking all these miles has put my mind back to what it was like to serve in the military, and I’m glad I can now do it to serve my fellow veterans,” Cooper said.

He has been rucking (walking with a weighted bag) since Feb. 22 in honor of his former Army unit, the 2nd Battalion 22nd Infantry Regiment, and to raise funds and awareness for the Niagara Gospel Mission’s RECON recovery program. Cooper said he chose to ruck because that is the situation facing most homeless veterans who come to the Niagara Gospel Mission.

“They come to us with everything they own in a bag, on their back. I just wanted to walk a few miles in their shoes so that I could always remember why we serve the homeless community,” Cooper said.

Through GoFundMe, online donations through niagaragospelmission.org, and the mail, Cooper has raised more than $13,000 to add six more spaces to the RECON program.

“I started with a goal of $2,222 and now we have over $13,000,” Cooper said. “I am overwhelmed by the support of the community to help expand our RECON recovery program and care for our veterans.”

Cooper noted 70% of the veterans the Niagara Gospel Mission serves enter through this recovery program and find support through the work at the mission.

On Good Friday, Cooper will ruck from the Lewiston No. 2 Firehall to the Veterans Memorial at Hyde Park.

“I want to end the ruck at a place that symbolizes why I did it in the first place,” he said.

Cooper welcomes anyone who would like to join him there to stay for a small prayer meeting at the end.

To donate to homeless veterans in Western New York, visit https://niagaragospelmission.org/give/ and put RECON in the comment section; or mail a check to 1317 Portage Road, Niagara Falls NY 14301. Put RECON in the memo.

Located at 1317 Portage Road, Niagara Falls, Niagara Gospel Mission is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit providing services to the homeless and poor. Visit niagaragospemission.org to learn more about current services and plans to develop services for homeless women.

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