October 1, 2019

SUNY Empire State College Community Walks More than One Million Steps in Recognition of National Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day

Relay Kicks Off College’s $1 Million Campaign to Support Military Students and Their Families


(ALBANY, New York – Sept. 30, 2019) Members of the SUNY Empire State College community walked more than one million steps Sunday in a relay at Albany’s Empire State Plaza in recognition of National Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day, which honors those who have lost family members in combat.

The event kicked off the college’s $1 million campaign to enhance financial aid and degree completion support for the college’s students on active duty with the U.S. Armed Forces, as well as veterans, their families, and dependents.

From 1 to 4 p.m., participants at the Plaza walked a loop around the reflecting pool, joined virtually by walkers all over the country sending their step totals via Twitter and email, to log a total of 1,142,753 steps. The day culminated with a New York State Division of Veterans’ Services community observance at Lafayette Park.

“I want to personally thank the members of our college community for their participation in this event honoring Gold Star families,” said SUNY Empire State College President Jim Malatras, who was among the walkers. “I was impressed by the turnout, delighted to be part of this great group, and prouder than ever of the college’s show of dedication to the 1,300 active-duty service members and veterans currently enrolled with us.”

“The SUNY Empire State College community showed its colors in stepping up to walk more than 500 miles in support of Gold Star families on Sunday,” said Aaron Gladd, SUNY Empire’s chief of staff and an Army platoon leader and veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom. “This was an impressive achievement, and I’d like to thank everyone involved, from the organizers and volunteers to the walkers who sent their steps from all around the country. We’ll be sure to carry this momentum forward as we begin raising $1 million to help our service members, veterans, and their families achieve their goals with a college degree.”

OVME Director Desiree Drindak said, “This was an awesome event. What a fantastic example of how our SUNY Empire community comes together. I am thrilled we exceeded our goal, but, more importantly, that we were able to raise awareness of Gold Star Mother's and Family's Day, a national event that memorializes Americans’ steadfast commitment to our heroes who perished and their families. The college’s support of OVME demonstrates unwavering dedication to military families, which fulfills the college’s mission to make learning accessible to students everywhere.”

Following the observance, members of the college community joined other participants in West Capitol Park to light 62 luminaries, representing each county of the state, and observed a moment of silence.

The relay is part of SUNY Empire’s Commitment to Community initiative, which uses the college’s footprint at more than 30 locations across the state to help build stronger, more vibrant communities. The initiative includes opening computer labs across the state for the 2020 Census, serving as early voting sites, holding events to encourage civic responsibility and engagement, and hosting public art exhibits.

See photos from the event on the college's One Million Steps Relay album.