NorCal man treks around Lake Tahoe, raises $100K for war vets
September 22, 2016
LAKE TAHOE — With an American flag fastened to his backpack, Ted Gallagher walked around Lake Tahoe over seven days Sept. 11-17.
Step by step, Gallagher completed the 72-mile journey in a week — and raised more than $100,000 for nonprofit Semper Fi Fund along the way.
"It's been incredible," Gallagher said. "It has just gone almost viral."
Gallagher's trek was called "72 for the 22 at 62," and started and ended at Homewood on the West Shore. The numbers each had a different meaning — 72 for distance (in miles) of the trip, 22 for the approximate number of military veterans that commit suicide on a daily basis, and 62 (as in 6,200 feet) for the elevation of Tahoe.
"That's what's great about Lake Tahoe — everything is unique," the 54-year-old Gallagher said. "To have a view of the lake all the way is pretty special."
The idea for the walk started with a donation — Gallagher grew up in a military family, and decided to donate to a military-oriented charity after his father died three years ago. Ted Gallagher Sr. served in the Marines for multiple tours, including World War II.
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The Lafayette, Calif., resident chose the Semper Fi Fund because of its military roots and the fact that 95 percent of money donated to the nonprofit goes directly to its services.
The organization's work starts with providing immediate financial assistance and lifetime support for post-9/11 wounded, critically ill and injured members of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Six months ago, Gallagher decided it wasn't enough to write a check — he needed to do something more. That's when he decided to walk around Lake Tahoe, and raise money and awareness for Semper Fi Fund in the process.
"I had to do this event," he said.
Gallagher started with the goal to raise $5,000 for the nonprofit, which eventually increased to a lofty $100,000. Through Tuesday, Sept. 20, the campaign has raised $127,000 from more than 150 donations as a result of the walk — and is still open.
"People would see the American flag sticking out of my backpack or our T-shirts, and just inquire about that," Gallagher said. "I'd tell them the story."
The trek was broken up into seven legs, and Gallagher walked alone for two of them — he trained for five months, battling lower back and foot issues along the way. He said Emerald Bay was the most memorable part of the walk, and not just because of its beauty.
"Emerald Bay was beautiful — as it always is — but when you're walking on the side of the road there, it's pretty darn hairy," Gallagher said. "You have maybe 12 inches of width between the cars and a guardrail or cliff going a couple hundred feet down."
On Saturday, Sept. 17, Gallagher completed the walk — and was joined by approximately 20 people as he crossed the "finish line" in Homewood.
He celebrated with a barbecue that included Semper Fi Fund co-founder Wendy Lethin and her husband Clark Lethin, a former Marine.
"Them speaking from the heart about how much this money and raising awareness means — and what it can do — was really cool," Gallagher said. "That's where the whole validation came in."