By Eden Laikin
Ultimate Fighting Champions and Mixed Martial Artists are fighting outside the ring these days, to help local veterans in need – especially those who recently returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Former UFC Welterweight Champion Matt Serra, who grew up in East Meadow, and MMA fighter Eddie “Truck” Gordon of Freeport are among the athletes who have put their strength, and support, behind the inaugural launch of County Executive Edward P. Mangano’s Brick 26 Challenge.
The unique walk/endurance/run event – planned for August 4th in Eisenhower Park – is aimed at raising money for local veterans who today face a higher than average rate of unemployment and a rising incidence of mental health issues like PTSD. The proceeds will be donated to non-profit veteran groups that include Semper4Soldiers, Honor Flight and a Veteran Hofstra Scholarship.
“With many of our heroes returning home from serving overseas and a growing number of local veterans in need of financial, emotional and physical assistance events such as the Brick 26 Challenge can be of great assistance,” Mangano said. “All of the funds raised go to charities that help our hometown heroes.”
The Brick 26 Challenge is designed for all levels of athletes, from the walker to the ultra-athlete and will challenge participants with a variety of obstacle courses along the route. The event will include a one mile Honor Walk; a 10k course in which “competitive” participants carry 26 pounds of bricks in a backpack; and 4 military represented boot-camps.
In each case, at least one brick is carried by the participant throughout the course and collected at the end. All bricks will be used toward the construction of a monument to be placed outside the Nassau County Veterans Services Agency building in East Meadow. Each tower of the monument will stand 26 bricks high and feature an engraved dedication to our veterans.
Several “Ultimate” fighters gathered with County Executive Mangano in front of the park’s Veterans Monument today and urged people to join in on the event and help those who fought for our freedoms.
Eddie “Truck” Gordon urged people to support this “great cause.”
“The veterans are the true heroes,” Gordon said. “They are the warriors fighting the real battle overseas, while we do it here for fun. Gordon said he’d be at the Aug 4 event, “carrying some bricks.”
Mixed Martial Artist Pete “Drago” Sell echoed Gordon’s sentiments in calling the returning veterans “true heroes.”
“They deserve a lot of credit,” he said. “So come down and support them.”
Matt Serra said “there is not a more worthy cause than to support our troops. Come down and carry a brick.”
The event will be sponsored by True Honor Clothing, Pepsi, whose products include Gatorade, Aquafina, and Gatorade Energy Bars, and Crossfit 516. It coincides with a Salute to Veterans on the evening of the event.
Members of the local rock band “Non Stop to Cairo,” will be playing the day of the Brick 26 Challenge to “pump everybody up …give them energy and support.”
Mark Gray, president and founder of Brick 26, is a school principal in Baldwin and not a veteran. But he says he has a strong belief that civilians “still have a chance to serve their country, by helping those who served us overseas.”
In February, Brick 26 launched Project 26 in Long Island Schools, with children each contributing 26 cents. The event resulted in the collection of more than $3,400.
For more information, go to http://www.brick26.org or call Scott Castillo, Deputy Director of the Nassau County Veterans Services Agency at 516-572-6560