Challenge series seeks to honor fallen heroes

AROOSTOOK COUNTY, Maine — A coalition of organizations that honor and remember the nation’s fallen heroes have announced a collaborative effort to raise awareness and encourage more participants to take advantage of numerous running, walking and rucking events offered in 2019.

The coalition launched the Service & Sacrifice Series Challenge to continue the legacies of fallen military, Gold Star Families, military active duty, veterans, and first responders. Events have grown over the years and the collaborators hope to raise the profile of the selfless sacrifice they honor. Additionally, the partners encourage veterans and Maine communities to engage in healthy physical activity.

“The first of its kind, the Service & Sacrifice Series Challenge, was born from years of professional event management through CompetitorME. We continue to focus on our mission of ‘Inspired by Heroes and Connecting Communities’,” said CompetitorME owner Jonathan Kelley.

“The Challenge is a great representation of that mission. It contains 10 ‘service and sacrifice’ events throughout New England over seven months. The goal is to connect civilians with those who have served, and introducing events, stories and legacies they may never have known,” he said. “For our veterans, it’s an opportunity to remain healthy, while honoring those who they may have served with.”

According to Kelley, the Center for Disease Control Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System determined in 2018 that while Maine improved to the 16th healthiest state based on multiple parameters, the state ranked highest in New England for obesity. Overall, Maine is ranked 18th in the US in percentage of obese adults at 29.1 percent and is ranked 22nd in the US in physical activity, with 25.2 percent of adults reporting doing no physical activity or exercise other than their regular jobs.

Additionally, a 2013 report in the Journal of General Internal Medicine concluded that seventy-five percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans were either overweight or obese at baseline. During the 3-year ascertainment period, those with PTSD and depression in particular were at the greatest risk of being either obese without weight loss or overweight or obese and continuing to gain weight.

As part of an effort to address these specific health concerns, CompetitorME implemented physical fitness events designed for family participation. Key components of each Challenge event are a Kids 1 Mile Fun Run, Adaptive Athlete category and awards, and a Virtual registration option for anyone worldwide to participate.

“As a pediatrician, I have seen a worrisome trend in recent years towards inactivity in our youth and their families,” said Dr. Renee Fournier. “We are seeing a dramatic increase in obesity, diabetes, and other complications of an inactive life in younger and younger children. This program will not only give families an opportunity to get active and healthy together, but also will inspire them to learn the stories of our nation’s true heroes.”

The kickoff event to the Service & Sacrifice Series Challenge is the Spc. Dustin J. Harris Memorial Mile, slated Saturday, April 6, in Patten.  

“This event is being held on Dustin’s ‘angelversary,’ a difficult day for family and friends,” Kelley said.

Registration that day will be from 10:30 to 11:45 a.m., with the trek beginning at noon. To avoid lines, participants are encouraged to pre-register.  Entry is $10 per person until April 1, with increased pricing the day of the event.

The first 75 registrants will receive an event shirt; everyone receives a finisher medal, age group and overall awards, chip timing, personalized bibs, plus a fully supported and staffed course.

Participation in the Service & Sacrifice Series Challenge is simple. Simply register for one event in the Challenge per month, participate in person or virtually, and then earn Challenge swag at the end.

The Service & Sacrifice Series Challenge mission focuses on Gold Star Families, whose loved one sacrificed their lives through military service. For many of these families, it’s the thought of their loved one’s sacrifice being forever forgotten that is most concerning.

“I think this is a great community service. It allows people to remember and honor, while also enjoying the fitness opportunities offered,” said Lorna Harris, Gold Star mother of Dustin Harris. “This is a great way to build strong, healthy communities, while challenging participants of all ages. We are pleased to partner with the collaborators of the challenge to help remember the sacrifice of our those who protect our nation, like my son”.

The Service & Sacrifice Series’ website,—sacrifice-series-challenge.html, contains a listing of information and registration links for all events from April to November. Visit the series on Facebook at

In addition to the website, CompetitorME plans an ongoing television and radio campaign to publicize the Challenge and the individual activities that will take place throughout New England.

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