MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Students of Kansas State University, Soldiers of Fort Riley and residents of the Flint Hills region ran and walked to raise money for the USO Fort Riley Oct. 16 in the Kansas State University Philanthropy Homecoming 5K Run-Walk on the K-State campus in Manhattan, Kansas.

Nearly 1,100 individuals registered to participate in the homecoming run, with more signing up at the event. The money raised by participants of the run goes to the USO Fort Riley, said Marcus Kidd, assistant director of student programs at Kansas State University.

The USO Fort Riley was selected as the organization to benefit from the run through a vote with the planning committee from student programs at K-State. Courtney Claxton, a volunteer with USO Fort Riley for two years, student at K-State and intern with the director of student programs at Kansas State University, said she made the push to see USO Fort Riley chosen.

"This connection she has built (between USO Fort Riley and Kansas State University) has been a big part of that," Kidd said.

Claxton said she wanted the money to go to the volunteers and staff at USO Fort Riley because of how they treated her these last two years and she wants the same for everyone else who visits or gets involved with them.

"I chose the USO because I wanted to give back to them the way they have given to me," she said. "They embraced me as a college student who had no military background whatsoever and they made me feel like family. The USO taught me so much about life and about myself and I really have had such a wonderful experience with the USO and I wanted, before I graduated, to give them something in return."

Kidd said this was his first experience partnering with staff and volunteers at the USO Fort Riley, but he hopes this experience will turn into a last partnership between staff and students at Kansas State University and staff and volunteers at USO Fort Riley.
"It's a new partnership that could lead to future partnerships around the community," he said. "I'm excited that we get to work with the USO this year."

For Claxton, she said this partnership reaches her on a personal level because of the friendships she has formed and the people she met through her at the USO Fort Riley, a time in her life she hopes to continue for many more years.

"It means so much to me personally," Claxton said. "With all my friends that I have, they're like family to me … I always feel so connected. I feel like their little sister. It means a lot to me because I know my friends will benefit from this and people who come to the center will benefit from this. People in years to come will benefit from this."