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Walk for the Red 140

By
RENEE LAPHAM COLLINS

Special Writer
Next month, the U.S. will mark the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks, which included 343 firefighters who died when the World Trade Center towers collapsed.

Marshall Wood of Tecumseh will join his cousin Joe Warne, a Macomb Township firefighter, in the third annual Walk for the Red 140, which will be making its way through Lansing September 11 en route to Cascade Township.

Warne founded Neighbors United in October 2017. It is a nonprofit group dedicated to helping families who are “down on their luck,” according to Warne, but among the main beneficiaries of the nonprofit are Michigan firefighters with cancer and their families as well as the families of firefighters who have died from cancer. The Walk for the Red 140, typically the second weekend of September, is now in its third year and takes place September 9-12. Warne dons full firefighter gear to make the trek, and this year, Wood and a mutual friend, Steve Bourdo of Battle Creek, will be walking alongside Warne.

“This year, we are helping twelve families with whatever we raise,” Wood said. “So far it’s $32,000, and of the twelve families, eight of the firefighters have already died.”

Money raised helps support families with living expenses and medical expenses.

“We are pushing it on TikTok, which is our biggest platform,” Wood said. “I have 359,000 followers and Steve has 302,000 following him. We have some of our followers making memorabilia for an auction that will take place during the walk.”

Wood said that they hope to use their TikTok social media platform to spread the word and help Warne in his goal to raise $50,000.

Warne said the name of the walk comes from the number of miles between the two fire stations. The “140” in the walk’s title is the distance from the Macomb Township Fire Station 2 to Cascade Township Fire Station 2, outside of Grand Rapids.

“I decided ‘what’s a good way to raise awareness’ and I’d walk across the state in full gear and somebody might ask me what we’re doing,” Warne said. “I wanted to help Michigan firefighters battling cancer.”

That gear weighs about 65 pounds, he said.

Numerous studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control,  the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety, and the International Association of Firefighters over the last 10 years show firefighters have a 9 percent higher risk of a cancer diagnosis and a 14 percent higher risk of dying from cancer compared to the general population. Moreover, risks are also higher for first responders who saved lives, recovered bodies, and cleaned up debris at the site of the 9/11 attacks.

“When we planned the walk, we didn’t realize we’d be walking on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, which makes this walk really important,” Warne said. “We know 343 firefighters died when the towers came down, but what a lot of people don’t know or remember is the many firefighters who died later from all the toxins and fumes they breathed in. It really put cancer research in firefighters on the map.”

Warne hopes to get firefighters and communities in all 50 states involved in the Walk for the Red 140. He will be heading to Texas in March to help launch a Walk for the Red 140 there.

“In the last two years, sixteen firefighters in Michigan have died from cancer,” Warne said.

Wood is happy to be walking alongside his cousin.

“I’m really proud of him,” Wood said. “He is just a great human being.”

Wood said he and Bourdo continue to push videos that will make people aware of the upcoming walk.

“It’s leading to donations from people that would have never seen it or known about the walk otherwise,” he said.

For more information on Neighbors United, visit its Facebook page at: facebook.com/neighborsunitedmi. To donate to the Walk for the Red 140, use Venmo@neighborsunitedmi, Cash App: $neighborsunitedmi, PayPal: neighborsunitedmi@gmail.com. For more on the Walk for the Red 140, search @i.am.marshall @stevebourdo @neighbors.united on TikTok.
 

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