Ultra marathoner goes the distance to raise funds for vets in need

The fallen service members for whom Eva Casale runs power her through every step.

Each day during her seventh annual “Every Veteran Appreciated,” week, Ms. Casale ran a full 26.2 mile marathon to raise money and build support for veterans across Long Island. She took her first step at Huntington Town Hall Sunday, April 23, and made her way to the East End by the end of the week. Throughout her journey, she stopped at 350 “points of honor,” specific locations dedicated to veterans, from VFW posts to renamed streets and bridges, where she placed flowers and flags. 

On Thursday, she set out with a group of supporters and fellow marathoners from Fink’s Farm in Wading River before making an important stop at Calverton National Cemetery.

“We placed roses at 32 resting places of fallen heroes,” Ms. Casale said after the day’s run. “I put a rose down, I touched their headstone and I thanked them for their service. I think just a little bit of them comes with me on the journey, and it helps me get through the day.”

The runners ended their Thursday journey at Warrior Ranch in Calverton, where veterans connect with one another and work with rescued horses to help deal with symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder through equine-assisted therapy.

After a surprise ceremony during which the Islip Horsemen’s Association’s Spirit of Long Island Drill Team performed and Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar and Suffolk County Legislator Steven Flotteron presented Ms. Casale with proclamations, Ms. Casale handed Eileen Shanahan, the founder of Warrior Ranch, a check for $2,500 to support their services.

“It was very emotional,” Ms. Aguiar said following the event. “It was probably one of the most emotional points in my career.”

On Friday, Ms. Casale, whose father and brother served in the armed forces, stopped to visit more points of honor on the East End, including the Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base and VFW Post 5350, both in Westhampton, where she placed flowers.

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 seven races to date — 2020’s was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic— she has raised approximately $200,000.

By her side throughout this past week were members of “Team Eva,” which included support drivers who led and followed the runners and organizers who planned and mapped out the weeklong 184 mile trek. The team also included six 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 as well. On Thursday, this included Anthony Russo, a 28-year-old veteran who served in the Marine Corps. Despite burning his rubber soles all day, he was loaded with energy when the runners caught their breath at Warrior Ranch.

“I think this is a great opportunity to show support for veterans and I’m glad to see a good crowd out here,” he said. “I’m proud to see the community come together.”

Mr. Russo added that he hopes these marathons and similar events help support veterans directly and shine a light on the services available to them.

“I feel like a lot of veterans get out and they feel like there is not a lot of people to help guide them in the right direction,” Mr. Russo said. “I think it helps just showing there are resources out there for them and making them readily available.”

To learn more or donate to Team Eva, visit or email [email protected].