Four years ago, then-incoming freshman Lauren McKee sent an email to the Gary Sinise Foundation (GSF), a charity dedicated to serving veterans, active military and first responders, explaining that she was a freshman at Notre Dame and hoping to be added to a volunteer list. Two hours later, she got a call from the foundation’s director of outreach, Billy Wagasy.“[Wagasy] was a former Navy SEAL before he became the director of outreach at the Gary Sinise Foundation, but he also played football here under Lou Holtz for four years, so because of that Notre Dame connection it got passed to his desk,” McKee said. “While we were talking, we kind of came up with this idea for a charity run that would benefit the Gary Sinise Foundation.”A few weeks later, McKee said she happened to meet a member of the Notre Dame Air Force ROTC, and she mentioned the idea to him, asking whether ROTC would want to get involved. The student said yes, and then began to work with both McKee and other members of the ROTC service groups to plan the first annual Run Forrest Run 5/10k race on Notre Dame’s campus, she said. “From there this crazy idea took off, and it’s been four years where it’s just kind of grown exponentially. We now have a virtual race, and we have people who have run across the country, and this year we actually have people running internationally,” McKee said. “It’s just absolutely incredible to see the support that we’ve had.”Gary Sinise, who played Lt. Dan in the beloved movie “Forrest Gump,” created the charity in 2011 after years of supporting veterans and active military through his Lt. Dan Band at military bases and benefit concerts. While the charity provides support in many different ways to servicemen and women and their families, its main program is called R.I.S.E., or Restoring Independence, Supporting Empowerment, which provides specially built homes, modified vehicles and mobility devices for wounded veterans.“A lot of times when veterans come back who are severely injured, it’s not just a case of having limited mobility outside their homes. There’s also a lot of things that go into limiting their independence in their homes,” McKee said. “They’re unable to reach things in the house, the bathrooms are usually too small, there’s just a lot of things that go into making their lives a lot more difficult. So the R.I.S.E. program works to support empowerment and make sure they can be independent.”By the end of this year, GSF will have built 65 adapted smart homes for wounded veterans. During its first year, McKee said the race raised money to build one such home for Sgt. Michael Frazier, a marine who lost both legs and much of the use of his right arm while deployed in Afghanistan in 2011. His wife, McKee said, credited the home with his ability to fully participate in his life.“It’s allowed him to be a better father and a better husband … because the house is specially adapted so that he can access it, so that it’s specifically designed for his needs,” McKee said.The Notre Dame ROTC service groups have played a large role in planning the race each year, with at least one representative from each branch on the planning committee and many more students volunteering and participating.“The ROTC kids were fully in, and this wouldn’t have been possible without them,” McKee said. “Every single person who has worked on the race committee or even just volunteering and spreading the word about it — every single one of them has made sure that this has been possible.”To date, the Run Forrest Run race has raised over $35,000 to benefit GSF in the past three years, and McKee said she predicts that this year’s total may exceed $20,000, far surpassing her original expectations. McKee said over 450 runners will be on campus, with another 70 running nationally and internationally. She said she points to Notre Dame’s guiding statement, “God, Country, Notre Dame,” as the reason the race has been so successful.“I think immediately there was that easy pairing between the mission of the Gary Sinise Foundation, and the incredible willingness to serve that the people of Notre Dame have,” McKee said.This year, McKee said, the race is excited to honor U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Chad Watson, a GSF smart home recipient and 2016 MBA graduate of Notre Dame. While she is sad this is her last time on the race committee, McKee said she is confident in the abilities of next year’s committee.“Every year I’m blown away by the people I get to meet and all the stories I get to hear,” McKee said. “None of it would have happened without any of the people who were there. I just really lucked out that I got to meet so many incredible people who were so supportive and so willing to throw everything into this crazy idea.”Tags: Air Force ROTC, Billy Wagasy, Chad Watson, Gary Sinise Foundation, Michael Frazier, R.I.S.E., ROTC, Run Forrest Run
By Brad HaireUniversity of GeorgiaGeorgia has had plenty of rain in the past month. But there’s no guarantee it will be plentiful all summer. And just two weeks without rain can be enough to hurt most grasses.Your lawn doesn’t have to suffer, said Kerry Harrison, an irrigation specialist with the University of Georgia Extension Service. But you don’t want to just turn on the sprinklers anytime you feel the lawn needs a drink. This could waste water and damage lawns. It could get you in trouble, too.The guidelinesGeorgia has no mandatory watering restrictions statewide now, he said. But there are some guidelines.If your street address is an odd number, you’re asked to water on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. If it is an even number, you’re asked to do it on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. “There’s no outside watering on Friday,” he said.New automated irrigation systems, Harrison said, must be equipped with rainfall sensors to stop them when it rains. Watering guidelines are enforced by local authorities.But homeowners can easily supply their lawns with needed water and still follow the guidelines, he said.Know the systemIt doesn’t matter if you use a permanent system or a sprinkler attached to a hose. The first thing you need to know is how much water you’re applying and how fast.”Not knowing your water application rate is like driving a car with no speedometer,” he said.Different systems apply water at different rates. Hose-sprinkler systems vary the most. Space three rain gauges within the watering area of your system. Look at your watch. After an hour has passed, check your gauges to see how much water your system puts out in that time.Good timingMost lawns grow best when they get 1 inch of water a week, either from rain, irrigation or combination of the two. And they prefer long soakings. In dry weather, water only once or twice a week to get that 1 inch of water.Light, frequent watering can cause turf grasses to develop shallow roots. This can lead to many problems, including disease and insect damage and discoloring from poor fertility.The grass at the very end of a sprinkler’s trajectory may not get as much water as the grass closer to the sprinkler. Permanent systems should be set for overlap in sprinkler patterns to adjust for this. Remember this when you move your hose-sprinkler system. You want your lawn to be uniformly wet.Water at the right times, too: early morning or late at night, Harrison said. If you don’t, you could just waste time and water.”We have research and evidence to show that you can lose as much as half the water if it’s applied during peak daylight hours,” he said.High temperatures and high winds can evaporate water or blow it off-target, too, he said.Watering during the day, too, increases the time grass is wet. This can cause disease. Watering at night won’t hurt grass that’s already wet from dew. The turf gets the water it wants and is drier during the day.Georgia should have a typical, humid summer with temperatures in the mid-80s and 90s and spikes around 100, said state climatologist David Stooksbury, a professor of engineering with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. The heat should generate hit-or-miss afternoon thunderstorms.An above-average tropical weather season is forecast for the Atlantic Ocean. But fewer storms than in 2004 will likely make landfall.