By Eric Mergens
In March, Purpose2Play interviewed Richard Albero just north of Ocala, Florida as he was making his way from George M. Steinbrenner Field (spring training home of the New York Yankees) in Tampa to home plate of Yankees Stadium in the Bronx.
If you heard Albero’s story when he set out for New York, you’ll recall that this walk was not just a fan’s challenge – it was an honoring of a promise he made to his nephew, Gary, years ago that they would hike the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim one day. Tragically, Gary was killed on 9/11. For Albero, this walk represented his history, his love for the game of baseball, and the ongoing pursuit of honoring the charitable spirit that Gary embodied.
“I ended up raising $55,000 for the Wounded Warriors Project,” Albero said, “That included $25,000 that the Yankees gave me when I finished the walk.”
Being a military veteran himself, Albero’s choice of charities was as impeccable as his timing for arriving in the New York area to conclude his walk.
“It started the Friday before Memorial Day when I was walking through the last part of New Jersey. I grew up in New Jersey, so there was kind of a nostalgic feeling especially walking through the town I was born in, Hackensack, New Jersey.”
After a day off, Albero put the final stamp on his journey.
“I walked into the stadium with Wounded Warriors, which was really so heartwarming,” he said. “Then we walked around the field, came down the third baseline and I stepped on home plate. Then the Yankees honored me by allowing me to throw out the first pitch. I’m proud to announce I threw a perfect strike.”
Albero was on the road for 86 days and covered 1,138 miles. That time of battling against Florida heat, Carolina rains, and Virginia foothills gave him the opportunity to think about his next step and the continued pursuit of honoring his nephew.
“My next project, if I can pull it off, is I’m going to sell my house and get a small ranch or farm and I’m going to raise Saint Bernards. I’m hoping to invite wounded warriors to spend a week at no charge with the dogs, working with them in hopes they pick up some of the kindness and characteristics of the Saint Bernards, and then let them take the dogs with them. It’s going to take some funding, but if I can walk to New York, I think I’ll be able to do this.”
The kindness reflected by those Saint Bernards is what Albero said was his most important takeaway from his experience.
“Take the time to be kind. That was one of the nicest parts of this,” Albero said. “Whether it was waitresses along the way giving me their tip money or people running out in the rain offering to give me food or water. Just people taking the extra time to tell me they were Atlanta Braves fans or Boston Red Sox fans. I had one young girl give me $1.72 because it was all the money she had.”
Regardless of baseball allegiance, kindness breeds kindness.