Society & Culture

Wright’s Mountain Runners raise $$ to fight suicide among VT veterans

by Linda Duxbury

BRADFORD—With high energy anticipation, 15 runners awaited the 9 a.m. launch from the Devil’s Den Trailhead on Wright’s Mountain on the morning of Oct. 10.

The 24-hour DD Ultra Run was organized by ex-Marine and Corinth resident Jason Mosel to raise money for the Josh Pallotta Fund, a nonprofit named in honor of the young Marine who died by suicide on Sept. 23, 2014.

Mosel fought his own battles with alcohol and depression, but emerged safely with the help of vigorous athletics and now works tirelessly to help other veterans cope with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Bradford Conservation Commission’s Friends of Wright’s Mountain was supportive of the run. Nancy Jones, chair of the commission, greeted the runners.

Mosel’s enthusiasm was evident as he briefed the group. Not still for a moment, he explained the 5-mile loop trail, the expectations and caveats, and how the runners needed to collect bracelets each time they reached the top of the trail.

The 5-mile loop was to be repeated as many times as possible before the clock struck 9 a.m. on Oct. 11. The victor emerging with the most circuits.

Mosel, a 35-year old fit ex-Marine originally from Waterbury, Connecticut, and his wife Amber moved to Corinth 12 years ago. 

“I love being outside in the woods and I love the people of Corinth,” he said.

The nearby Wright’s Mountain trails attracted him because of their energy and beauty.

When he pitched the idea of the run to the Bradford Selectboard last year, the race initially was to feature 25 runners.

Because of COVID-19, that number was lowered.  

“We had to make sure that runners …  abided by the state’s guidelines. We have to keep people safe.”

Valerie Pallotta, who lives in Colchester, is co-director of the nonprofit, and attended the start of Saturday’s event.

Losing her only son to suicide, she experienced the worst thing that can happen to a parent.

Sympathetic to other veterans also suffering from PTSD, Valerie and her husband Greg sought their opinions about what they wanted and needed.  

They responded, “A place to hang out, to be together, and play video games.”

“So we decided to develop Josh’s House VT which will be a wellness recreation center offering chiropractic care, massage, complementary and alternative healing, meditation, and reflexology,” Valerie said.

COVID-19-related cancellations were disappointing this year since a fundraising hockey game, golf tournament, and a craft fair could not be held. 

Renovations to Josh’s House by REM Development Company of Burlington came to a halt early last spring.

Valerie was upbeat as she explained the work has resumed and is almost complete.

Housed in the old Veteran’s Administration building in the lower level of Fort Ethan Allan, the facility will be open 24 hours, seven days a week.

Game rooms, a gym, meeting and study spaces and a commercial-sized kitchen will satisfy many needs.

“They can learn to cook!” Valerie said.  

The organization vows not to stop until there is an end to veteran suicide.

Tiffany Woodger, the mother of 3-year old twins, drove three hours from Granville, Massachusetts to participate. She had heard that the Devil’s Den Trail was challenging.

“I’m more of a hiker so my plan is to walk for 24 hours,” she said, with a smile hidden under her mask.

A friend advised her, “If you can raise twins, you can do anything else in the world.”

“I just want to finish,” she said.

Rick Evans did not need to travel far from his Wright’s Mountain Road home. Wife Caroline and sons Colton and Bodhi were there to cheer him on. 

“It’s exciting,” the otherwise shy Colton said.

Valerie met Jason at a fundraiser last year and said of her friend, “Jason is the most resilient, incredible vet I have ever met in my life.”

He is an inspiration. She said she struggles every day, but then she looks at what Jason has accomplished and finds the strength to go on. She cited the “never quit” Marine motto.

Hailing from Fairfax, Vermont, Mike Willey was stoked to begin the race. 

He said he runs a lot and started training in 2019 for a different event, but that was cancelled.

“It’s more than just training, it’s a lifestyle. The mental preparation is more important. You have to get used to–,” a bystander playfully interjected the word, “suffering!”

By suffering, it means that while they push themselves physically, they also are being called to their highest potential mentally.

Tents and makeshift shelters were in place at the trailhead and the night’s weather forecast was ominous.

Checking in after the run, Mosel told the Journal Opinion, “The top male runner did 15 laps (75 miles) and the top female did 12 laps (60 miles).”

The runners raised $3,575 for the Josh Pallotta Fund and $170 for the Friends of the Wright’s Mountain.  Prior to the race’s start, Mosel presented his personal checks for $500 each to Pallotta and Jones for their respective organizations.

“The rain did not stop any of the runners. When the heavy rain and wind came through, there was not one runner that stayed at the start line in their tent or under a canopy. All of them were on the course and some even would finish a lap, check in, turn around, and head back out [with the aid of headlamps]. No one was letting Mother Nature break their spirits to achieve their goal,” he said.

“By the end … all the runners had been moving for more than 24 hours, were cold and wet, but still nothing could break their spirits. Sitting around the fire, there were many jokes told and tears shed. Many of the runners came in not knowing each other and left with a lasting friendship,” he said.

He cannot wait to do it again next year.  

Email: lduxbury@jonews.com. Reprinted with our gratitude and appreciation from the Journal-Opinion, the community newspaper for Bradford and surrounding towns in Vermont and New Hampshire, http://www.jonews.com.

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