Akron Marathon relay team running to bring attention to homeless veterans

AKRON, Ohio - Each week homeless veterans craft, paint or draw during an art therapy class at Valor Home Summit by Harry Donovan Junior in Akron.

Art is one of several therapies the non-profit offers to help vets cope with issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I suffer from a lot of stress and anxiety and it kind of puts me in a safe zone," said Army veteran Bob Ehrhart. "It's just taking me away from the daily worries and the daily stress that I deal with."

Art therapist Stefanie Workman said the creativity helps the veterans relax or process traumatic incidents.

"Sometimes they will make art about those incidents. They may or may not talk about the art, but just to be able to make the art and acknowledge to themselves what happened, how it impacted their life can be very beneficial," Workman said.

To raise awareness about Valor Home, four workers, along with a fifth runner from the Red Bird Center, are planning to run the Akron Marathon as a relay team.

One thousand relay teams will cover 26.2 miles during the 15th annual event in downtown Akron on Saturday morning.

Other runners will run the marathon individually or participate in the half marathon.

"This is our first go at it," said Tina Smrekar, Valor Home senior support worker and relay member.

The relay team will wear tank tops with camouflaged lettering and the words VALOR HOME A PLACE FOR VETERANS.

The team feels it's leading by example by promoting exercise, but more importantly, they want to get the word out about Valor Home.

"You see these people on the street, holding homeless signs and people wonder, 'What's out there or where do they go?' Stop. Tell them, 'Call Valor Home,'" Smrekar said. "The veterans couldn't eat. They couldn't have detergent to wash their clothes. Anything like that is from the community."

Valor Home houses up to 30 homeless veterans at a time.

Many of the men, who served our country, are grateful for the relay team, the support from the community and for the various therapy programs that are offered weekly.

"Takes a lot of stress off you," said Stacey Ray who served in the army as a tanker. "It's relaxing listening to music and talking to different guys in here."

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