Carry the Load walked about 5 miles through Hot Springs on Monday from the Hot Springs Police Department to La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Hot Springs.
The nonprofit organization's mission is bringing awareness of Memorial Day's true purpose of paying tribute to all who have served in the military or as first responders and their families, according to a news release from the organization.
Monday's walk was one of five relay routes as a part of Carry the Load's national relay, spanning 20,000 miles across 48 states, the release said.
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"The reason we're out is just to remind people of the true sacrifices that men and women make overseas along with our first responders over here," said Hunter Lovelace, a videographer for the organization, who was "carrying" Matthew Roland, of Lexington, Kentucky, who was killed in action in Afghanistan.
"I actually got to meet his family, along with a guy who served along with him, and hearing his story was really awesome," Lovelace said. "And me being from Kentucky, I wanted to be able to honor somebody, you know, near."
After the walk ended in Hot Springs, the participants with the organization loaded into their bus and headed to Arkadelphia to walk there, Lovelace said. After they are done in Arkansas, they will head to Louisiana, he said.
The campaign, titled "Memorial May," began at the end of April, and the five routes will finally converge in Dallas, where the organization is based, on Memorial Day weekend, the release said.
La Quinta has been a sponsor for the organization since 2013, celebrating its 10th anniversary as a part of the event this year, Parth Patel, the hotel's president of development, said Wednesday.
With about 60 participants, Patel said this was the largest turnout for the event they have seen in at least 10 years.
"When they approached us in 2013, we didn't even take a split second to hesitate to partner with them, and every year it's been growing," Patel said. "We have several veterans throughout our company, and it's just something that we can do to promote the true meaning of Memorial Day."
La Quinta "gave us breakfast, had some hotel rooms ready for us, so it was an awesome deal," Lovelace said. "They've been helping us all along, each state that we go through, along with all our other events as well."
"I can't believe it's been 10 years, but we'll continue to do it as long as we can," Patel said. "And from what I gather, this is one of their favorite rally stops, for Hot Springs, Arkansas. So I'm glad we can do something (as) part of our community. And this was our largest turnout, so it was really nice that we have a lot of community support."
The organization raises funds to assist military members, veterans, first responders and their families, the release said. The goal for this year's Memorial May campaign is to raise $2.25 million.
"We have over 50 nonprofit partners that 94-96% is dispersed to at the end of the month, so you can visit our website carrytheload.org to donate that way," Lovelace said, "But you can also see which cities that we'll be stopping in, and we also accept cash donations and check donations, as well."