More Than a Run: How El Paso is Gathering to Remember 9/11
Last Updated: 01 Sep 2021
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Endeavors employee Ismael Lopez is the Run Director for the El Paso 9/11 Heroes Run. Here, he shares his passion for the event, for serving people, and for bringing his community together.
Every year, Americans around the country and around the world unite in heart, mind, and spirit on September 11th to remember the tragic deaths at the World Trade Center in New York City.
“Even the smallest act of service, the simplest act of kindness, is a way to honor those we lost, a way to reclaim that spirit of unity that followed 9/11,” said former president Barack Obama. And he was right.
Some remember our fallen heroes through social media posts, others through memorial services or prayer gatherings. Some write poems, others build memorials. Some sit still and in silence, while others move together to remember. The Travis Manion Foundation gathers people together to do the latter.
Remembering Our Fallen Heroes in a Unique Way
The Travis Manion Foundation’s 9/11 Heroes Run is an event that takes place across the globe.
The purpose? To remember the sacrifices of the heroes of September 11th. From Veterans to first responders to civilian heroes to military members, the run seeks to honor their legacies by gathering people together as Americans and remembering their sacrifices and courage.
Today, the race takes place in over 90 communities worldwide, and over 60,000 people participate each year!
To Ismael Lopez, the Run Director for the El Paso 9/11 Heroes Run, the event is personal.
“It’s so much more than just a run,” said Ismael, a Marine Corps Veteran. “I am always looking for ways to serve my community and honor my brothers and sisters in the service,” he said. “The Travis Manion Foundation allows me to do both at the same time with this event.”
Where Community Service Meets Veteran Care
Essentially, this run is where military service and community come together—a theme in Ismael’s life. As the Outreach and Life Skills Coordinator for The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Endeavors, El Paso, Ismael is constantly helping the Cohen Clinic maintain and raise awareness of its services. He coordinates and develops educational groups and webinars and collaborates with other community organizations.
His way of honoring fellow Veterans shines through in his commitment to connecting them with community resources and helping them find a stable & sustainable place in El Paso.
“My role in the clinic is twofold,” said Ismael. “I am helping or assisting with establishing a referral network for services in the clinic. But on top of that, I do a lot of project management, a lot of collaborative efforts with other organizations and filling grant requirements.” He also teaches life skills to Veterans and their family members, from socializing to job skills to emotional intelligence training.
Ismael has been recognized with several awards for his service, including the 2020 El Paso County Veteran of the Year, Official Star Lighter Award, 2019 Homefront Teacher of the Year and NAMI’s 2018 Peer to Peer Teacher of the Year Awards. Additionally, he has received special recognition by former Congressman Beto O’Rourke for his work within the Veteran community.
Finding The Right People Is the Key
It’s Ismael’s third year organizing the El Paso run, and he has watched the event bring his local community together in incredible ways.
The first year was particularly memorable.
“The first year was overwhelming, “ said Ismael. “I was nervous because two weeks before the run, we only had about 30 people registered. And then it just exploded. We had roughly 160 runners and over a hundred volunteers. The community showed up.”
In the years since, the event has only grown stronger. Hundreds of runners have participated in the race, both in person and virtually. The run now features a live band, local celebrity guest speakers, and food trucks, thanks to enthusiastic sponsors.
He says the key was finding the right collaborators— “Finding the right people was key. I learned a lot of lessons while building the committee and understanding how to make it successful.”
Seeing people come together has been particularly rewarding. “Everyone is different, but we all have one thing in common: people just want to get back to the community. And not only that, but they get to remember and honor those that you know that are still serving this community, whether they’re law enforcement, first responders, or military.”
“It definitely has been very rewarding. It’s hard personally for me to take credit for anything. My committee comes together. My role as Run Director is rewarding because I get to empower and be a part of this team. It’s an amazing community. We have a huge community presence. People want to volunteer. The impact is amazing, and I’m honored I get to be a part of it.”
Endeavors is a longstanding national non-profit that provides an array of programs and services in support of children, families, Veterans, and those struggling with mental illness and other disabilities. Endeavors serves vulnerable people in crisis through innovative personalized services. For more information, please visit www.endeavors.org.
About The Cohen Veterans Network
Cohen Veterans Network is a 501(c)(3) national not-for-profit philanthropic network of mental health clinics for post-9/11 Veterans and their families. CVN focuses on improving mental health outcomes via a network of outpatient mental health clinics for Veterans and their families in high-need communities, in which trained clinicians deliver holistic, evidence-based care to treat mental health conditions. The network currently has 19 clinics in operation serving Veterans and their families across the country. Learn more about Cohen Veterans Network.