December 4, 2021

Ruckers give Toys for Tots a lift with gifts

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Kate Wilczewski participates in a rucking workout at Yaman Park Tuesday in Cortland while training with Dustin Sherman, left.

The hikers marched along Main Street in Cortland Sunday.

Many carried a burlap sack or rucksack, full of gifts destined for Toys for Tots.

The hikers waved an American flag up front and Toys for Tots flags throughout the procession, and also wore reflective gear and waved glow sticks to ensure safety.

The event was the culmination of a plan by a new club led by Cortland resident Dustin Sherman — a club that joins thousands others nationwide: rucking.

Rucking is a form of resistance training that involves hiking with about 20 lbs of weight across distance and terrain.

Participants can choose the weight and the distance, and Sunday’s event saw participants from Oswego and Syracuse, one family that had never heard of rucking, some very experienced ruckers and several beginners, Sherman said.

Rucking is a part of military Special Forces training and ruck clubs teach discipline and encourage community involvement along with their emphasis on physical fitness.

Sherman is not a veteran, but he discovered the activity through his commitment to fitness and he found it to be both fun and a worthy cause.

“It’s different, it’s a team event rather than individual,” Sherman said. “You push yourselves and if you’re falling down you pass it down to the next and they help you. It’s like a platoon or military-based program.”

Several weeks ago, Sherman, who has been devoted to physical fitness since quitting smoking in June 2017, started the Cortland Ruck Club, which now has about 80 members. It’s the only club for the Central New York area, Sherman said, and it’s about more than being fit.

“Part of being in the club is you have to reach out to the community and better yourself and be disciplined,” he said. “It’s geared toward building a better America. Giving to your community and building better Americans.”

That’s why every club event features a U.S. flag being held high.

About once a month, Sherman organizes community-oriented events like Sunday’s.

On Sunday, 23 participants walked from the Local Food Store on North Main Street in Cortland to Hartley’s Auto and RV Center on Route 11 in Polkville, where Sherman works, to drop off gifts for Toys for Tots.

The shop is a drop-off location for Toys for Tots and the event saw 201 toys donated and about $150 donated to buy more toys.

Toys for Tots Coordinator Norm Stitzel, a veteran himself, is familiar with rucking and thought it was great that Sherman suggested the help.

“It’s kind of exciting somebody else is stepping up,” Stitzel said. “I didn’t select it, they stepped up and said they would do this, so it’s pretty cool.”

In the future, the club may partner with a military organization like Stitzel’s Veteran Search and Rescue, which helps introduce veterans to resources.

“We are always looking for people to partner with us on a consistent level,” Stitzel said.

Sherman also plans an event to benefit the Cortland Community Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, though he is not sure when that will happen.

Sherman was pleased with Sunday’s event.

“It was incredible,” he said. “We were a lot more satisfied with the turnout, the people that came, the camaraderie, how everybody worked together and the people who were experienced took control and helped out a little bit keeping it organized.”