ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A St. Petersburg man is literally taking his efforts to help veterans and first responders suffering from PTSD on the road.

Mike Koprowski is running 100 miles later this month to raise money for service dogs. For Mike, fitness is more than a way of business.

It's a way of life.

What You Need To Know

When he contemplates the last two or three years, he says fitness saved his life. He said everything in his life was looking up until March 10, 2020, when his brother-in-law and mentor Ryan Maer died from suicide.

“So we knew he was struggling, Mike said. “We never thought to this magnitude.”

Ryan was a Marine veteran and a New Orleans police officer, but Mike says he was so much more.

“From the outside perspective, there was nothing ever wrong with him," Mike said. “He was so impactful in his community, always cheerful, energetic, supportive, kind, generous. I could keep on going, but would’ve never have guessed it. That’s why it hit so hard at home. I would’ve never expected anything like this."

Mike Koprowski's brother-in-law Ryan Maer (Courtesy: Mike Koprowski)

Mike wears Ryan’s wedding ring around his neck as a reminder of how much he meant to so many, but now he is also taking his message on the road by running to raise money for Forgotten Coast K-9, service dogs that aide veterans and first responders suffering from PTSD.

“So I’ve done Ironmans before," Mike said. “I’ve done 50Ks before and I knew I had something more in me to get more awareness out there. What I’ve learned is you gotta do something crazy to build that audience and awareness, so for me, what about 100 miles?” His goal is to run from Kissimmee to St. Petersburg Dec. 9-10, raising money every step of the way.

“What I’m planning is, I’m taking it every 10 miles," he said, “So I have pacers. I have rest points and stop points, but the big thing for me is just thinking of going 100 miles.”

Mike says it’s the least he can do for a brother-in-law and father figure who meant so much to him and to remind people that anyone can make a difference in someone’s life.

“You don’t have to be a superhero to leave an everlasting impact on your community,” Mike said, “and a powerful impact on your community, and you have a voice and you have people who can help you and want you to help. If you're dealing with tough times, you’re not alone. You’re never alone.”