Hamilton man marches from London to Paris last week in support of homeless Veterans
By Pat Payton
Lino Di Julio didn’t serve in the military, but the Hamilton man is certainly contributing big time in another way.
Seven years ago, Di Julio started the Ruck 2 Remember:Road to Recovery program. It’s a non-profit organization that works with existing charities to serve and support the Veteran and First Responder communities.
From Sept. 10 to 13, in partnership with the Royal Canadian Legion’s Ontario Command, Di Julio marched 150 km from London to Paris in a salute to the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II and to help raise funds for Operation: Leave the Streets Behind, a charity managed by the Legion that helps get and keep Veterans off the street, and end Veteran homelessness.
This year was the seventh annual Road to Recovery march. In the first leg of his 2020 journey, Di Julio walked 40 km from London to St. Marys last Thursday. His support driver was Chris Kivell, and members of the Royal Canadian Legion Perth Regiment Veterans Branch 236 and Town of St. Marys officials welcomed the two men with open arms.
When Di Julio and Kivell arrived at the tennis courts at about 5 p.m., they were met by town councillor Rob Edney and fire chief Andy Anderson as well as several Legion personnel, including president Tom Jenkins. Escorted by a police cruiser, the group–led by piper Les Brunton–then marched to the Legion. Along the way, a couple of Legion members collected donations from spectators.
Dinner, lodgings, breakfast
Di Julio, Kivell, town officials and Legion members then sat down and enjoyed a delicious turkey dinner, courtesy of Branch 236. Following dinner, two monetary presentations were made to Di Julio to help support his worthy cause. Legion member Kim Massey presented him with a total of $1,583 — $533 in donations collected along the parade route, $50 from the Toronto branch, and $1,000 from St. Marys ANAF Unit 265. On behalf of the Legion, Poppy Chair Owen Marchant also presented the marcher with a cheque for $3,000.
After staying overnight at the Legion, Di Julio and Kivell were served breakfast Friday morning before they started the next leg of the march–taking them to Legion Branch 8 in Stratford. The pair would reach Tavistock by the end of Day 2. On Day 3, the march would take them from Tavistock to Kitchener. Reaching Paris was the destination on Day 4.
“The program has helped over 100 communities across Ontario,” president Jenkins said. “You might think of it as a major urban-centre problem, but it’s not. There are homeless Vets in small towns right across the province, and these guys help them out by finding permanent housing for them and getting them off the streets. I can’t think of a better thing to do than that.”
Two main reasons
In an interview with the Independent, Di Julio, 38, said he marches for two main reasons.
“One, I’m a civilian and was never able to serve because I have epilepsy,” he explained. “So seven years ago, I thought setting up this not-for-profit program would be a way for giving back to the Veterans. In talks with people, trying to help homeless Veterans came up as the No. 1 concern.
“The first couple of years, we did it on our own and were camping out in parks and pitching tents. Then the Legion stepped in and said they’d love to help us. We told them if you could put a roof over our heads that would be fantastic.”
Di Julio’s first march in 2014 took him from Hamilton to Parry Sound. It covered seven days and 316 km “We did two kilometres for every guy we lost in Afghanistan,” he said. “Since then, we’ve marched 150 to 160 km every year.”
The program has helped almost 900 Veterans to date.
–“Fantastic” was the way Di Julio described the hospitality last Thursday from the Town of St. Marys and the Legion. “It means a lot to us,” he said following dinner.
–Kivell is president of Legion Branch 393 in Smithville. He served in the military for over 20 years. “If you see a homeless person, ask him if he’s a Veteran,” Kivell told the newspaper.
–Coun. Edney and fire chief Anderson both brought greetings from the town last Thursday night. “We realize we’re a small community, but our hearts are big,” said Edney, who also specially thanked the local Legion for their contributions to Operation: Leave the Streets Behind.