Marathoner of Team Eva donates to Warrior Ranch, visits ‘points of honor’

On a gray, bitter cold, rainy Thursday — ideal conditions for a movie marathon perhaps — Eva Casale and a handful of runners on Team Eva ran a full 26.2-mile marathon to honor the nation’s veterans.

“I think about who we’re honoring,” Ms. Casale said of what runs through her mind as her feet hit the pavement. “On a day like today when the weather isn’t the best, we say that our heroes, our angels up above, are showing us tears of joy that we’re moving our mission in the right direction.”

Each day during her eighth annual Team EVA “Every Veteran Appreciated” week, Ms. Casale, 59, of Glen Cove, ran a marathon to raise money and support for veterans across Long Island. Her first race kicked off at Huntington Town Hall Monday morning, and her final marathon ended in downtown Glen Cove. Throughout her journey, she stopped at hundreds of “points of honor,” specific locations dedicated to veterans, from VFW posts to renamed streets and bridges, where she placed flowers and flags. 

Calverton’s Warrior Ranch, a nonprofit which offers equine therapy to veterans and first responders, as well as their families, was Ms. Casale’s last stop after a long Thursday journey. She gifted the haven for both heroes and retired race horses a check for $2,500.

“It is an incredible honor to me,” Eileen Shanahan, the founder and president of Warrior Ranch, said of Team Eva’s third annual stop at the nonprofit. “I admire Eva Casale tremendously, I think what she does is amazing. I think it is needed to get the word out to the public. It needs to be at the forefront of the American people’s mind that freedom isn’t free … Eva is now educating people about that. The fact that she comes here to Warrior Ranch, this is like my favorite event. I think Eva is incredible and it just means the world to me that she makes this one of her stops.”

Team Eva runs seven marathons in seven days to support veterans. (Nicholas Grasso photo)

Several elected and other government officials presented Ms. Casale with proclamations, including Riverhead Town Supervisor Tim Hubbard. Mr. Hubbard applauded Ms. Casale for drawing attention to the needs of veterans and supporting the Warrior Ranch.

“The work that the Warrior Ranch does here is incredible — how they help soothe the veterans, EMS workers, police officers,” said Mr. Hubbard, who holds an affinity for horses and horseback riding. “Nothing’s better than a horse. [For first responders] to be around them, to help them face their everyday pressures, we’re blessed to have this in our township.”

The supervisor added that he is thankful that the Warrior Ranch served a Riverhead Police Department officer who “was in a bad accident.”

Ms. Casale, a distance runner since age 15, ran her first “Every Veteran Appreciated” ultra marathon in 2016 after meeting several Gold star parents whose children died serving the nation. Through the eight races to date — 2020’s was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic— she has raised more than $200,000.

Lucky sports lucky stars to welcome Eva Casale to Warrior Ranch in Calverton. (Nicholas Grasso photo)

A few hours and a few miles prior to her Thursday terminus, Ms. Casale and her team stopped at Calverton National Cemetery. In stark contrast to the celebratory barbecue and spectacle at Warrior Ranch, she solemnly placed roses on the graves of more than 30 veterans. On Friday, the runner whose father and brother served in the armed forces, visited and placed flowers at more points of honor on the East End, including the Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter Veterans’ Memorial Bridge in Sag Harbor, as well as the Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base and VFW Post 5350, both in Westhampton.

By her side throughout this past week were members of “Team Eva,” which included support drivers who led and followed the runners, as well as organizers who planned and mapped out the weeklong 184-mile trek. The team also included four fellow runners who joined Ms. Casale for all seven marathons. Several members of the various communities through which they passed during the week joined in the runs as well.

“We’re in pain and we’re cold and freezing, but this is temporary for us,” Kevin Arloff, who ran all seven races alongside Ms. Casale, said at Warrior Ranch after Thursday’s bleak sky and dampness gave way to sunshine and calm. “Soldiers that have fought for our country, are still fighting for our country and the ones that have and passed, that’s the ultimate sacrifice they’ve made. We can make this small little sacrifice and run in the rain in their honor.”