Seventy-seven-year-old veteran to walk 22 miles for 22 Everyday

Come support Roger


Not many 77-year-olds would be willing to embark on a 22-mile walk, and likely no one of any age could organize and participate in a 22-mile walk with as much vigor and enthusiasm as Roger Fonnest.

On Friday, May 31 and Saturday, June 1, Marine veteran and East Patchogue native Roger Fonnest will be walking 22 miles to raise money for Amvets 22 Everyday for veterans suicide awareness.

The walk is broken down into two phases. On Friday May 31, which is a Friday, Fonnest will walk 14 miles. The most important phase is on Saturday, during which Fonnest will walk the last 8 miles with support from the community.

At 9:45, Fonnest will begin walking from the Dunton Inn, up South Country Road to Main Street, Patchogue. Fonnest will walk to Blue Point Brewery, where he will make a U-turn, and return to the Dunton Inn at the completion of the 22 miles.

Supporters of Fonnest, including Amvet riders, fellow Marine Corps recruiters, Amvets members, American Legion members, and many more will travel the last stretch with Fonnest.

Upon returning to the Dunton Inn, all who would like to attend are invited to enjoy a Chinese auction, 60-plus raffles, a 90-pound pig roast, live music, and a cash bar.

It is estimated that 22 veterans die by suicide in the United States every day. Amvets 22 Everyday strives to decrease this disturbing statistic from 22 to zero.

The story of Fonnest’s involvement with 22 Everyday began about four years ago when his son attempted suicide—and was, thankfully, unsuccessful.

“After, we wanted to do a midnight walk in Manhattan together, where they walk 15 miles from sunset to sunrise. But then it costs $50 to sign up, and you have to guarantee $250 worth of pledging, and if you do not raise $250, you still have to give the money, but you are not allowed to walk,” explained Fonnest. “Someone at the Post suggested walking 22 for 22, which I did not know about at the time. That is how we got started. Why not do it here?”

Since learning about the harrowing statistic, Fonnest—who is a member of Amvets, the VFW, and the American Legion—has become very passionate about raising awareness for and ultimately preventing veteran suicide. He even has a tattoo of the number 22 as a reminder to continue fighting for the cause. 

One of the most exciting features of this year’s 22-mile walk will be the participation of the Amvet riders. Patrick Smith, a member of East Islip’s Post 18 Amvet riders and president of the local Amvet Riders Association, has played a vital role in organizing the Fonnest’s 22-mile walk. Amvet riders from Posts 18, 88, 48, individual motorcyclists, plus a five-ton army truck from Post 18, will meet at Post 111 at 11a.m., then ride alongside Fonnest as he nears the end of his walk to Dunton Inn.

“We have a great bunch of guys at Post 18, about 45 riders that are always willing to help,” added Patrick Smith.

If you are a motorcyclist interested in riding alongside Fonnest, contact Smith at (631) 601-6964.

During Fonnest’s first walk, he raised $3,000 for 22 Everyday, and then raised $9,000 during last year’s walk. The contributions of generous donors and attendees participating in the variety of raffles at the Dunton Inn will fund this year’s charitable donation to 22 Everyday.

The incredible number of items donated to be raffled off at the Dunton Inn is a heartwarming testament to how our communities care for veterans. From a donation as small as a Panera Bread gift card for a free loaf of bread once a month for a year, to Lowe’s in Stony Brook donating a $699 grill, there will be raffle items big and small that you do not want to miss.

“When you mention veterans, everyone is very enthusiastic about donating,” remarked Smith. “We get so much support from the community.”

Come down to the Dunton Inn after 11 a.m. to join in the exciting festivities and cheer Fonnest on as he finishes his 22-mile walk. 


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