Brandon Mercado is one of the kids on the Spanish River Cross Country and Track teams that I’ve truly enjoyed coaching. He is not only a dedicated runner, but a great, kind and respectful kid. He and his best friend Ramiro Melendez or “Romo” that I have also gotten to know this year have been working toward a huge goal – an 1800 mile run from Florida to Michigan. Their story is inspirational and I am proud to be a witness to it.
Please find a fantastic article from the Palm Beach Post, which features the boys, their mentor Brian Thomas and much more! Enjoy and thanks to the Palm Beach Post and Willie Howard for writing such a worthy piece.
By Willie Howard, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 6, 2012
Two former Okeeheelee Middle School students, their track coach and three other members of the Road Warriors running team are preparing to run 1,800 miles from Greenacres to Michigan in June to raise money for colon cancer patients.
The two former Okeeheelee Middle students, Brandon Mercado and Ramiro Melendez, persuaded their coach and science teacher, Brian Thomas, to organize the long-distance run after hearing of a charity run from Michigan to St. Augustine that Thomas did in 2002.
Mercado and Melendez have since become competitive runners for their high school teams. Both are graduating this month, one of Thomas’ prerequisites for participating in the multi-state run.
“We stuck with it and showed him passion,” said Mercado, 18, who ran track and cross country for Spanish River High School and wants to become a physical therapist.
The other members of the Road Warriors team are Stephanie Schreiber, Thomas’ friend from Michigan; Ricky Montez of Palm Beach Gardens; and Mattie Maley of Lantana.
Thomas and members of the Road Warriors team will present their story to the Wellness Promotion Task Force at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at the Palm Beach County School District headquarters .
“This shows how passionate teachers influence our children,” said Paula Triana, co-chair of the Wellness Promotion Task Force. “He goes above and beyond.”
Okeeheelee Middle Principal David Samore said Thomas and other male teachers serve as mentors for boys at the school through a program called Bridges.
“There is no question in my mind that Brian Thomas is a life-changer for some kids,” Samore said. “This is a man who will put himself out there if the cause is a worthy effort.”
The Road Warriors plan to begin their run at Okeeheelee Middle on the morning of June 9.
They’re using their website, roadwarriorscorp.org, to raise money for the 1,800-mile trip and for the Colon Cancer Alliance, which uses donations to help patients with expenses as well as prevention awareness.
So far, they’ve raised $7,500 from private donations and the sale of T-shirts and wrist bands.
Running as a relay team, the Road Warriors plan to average 80 miles a day while moving north through eight states to their destination in Thomas’ hometown of Lake Orion, Mich.
They hope to arrive by June 30 and will post updates on Facebook along the way.
Okeeheelee Middle student Tyler Monsour is selling bracelets and donating a portion of the proceeds to the Road Warriors – an example of the ripple effect the run is having on Okeeheelee students.
Mercado and Melendez – who ran for Palm Beach Central – chose to support the colon cancer organization with donations raised through the long-distance run after seeing Okeeheelee Middle librarian Julie Greene recover from stage-3 colon cancer and start running half-marathons six months later.
“Brian and his young Road Warriors were always there with messages that helped me through training for my first half marathons,” Greene wrote in a letter on the Road Warriors’ website. “When I found out they planned on running from Florida to Michigan to raise money for colon cancer, I was honored.”