LUDLOW, MASSACHUSETTS -- The memory of Sgt. Joshua D. Desforges grows each year in the Ludlow community with the passing of Ludlow High School’s annual fitness challenge.
More than 60 participants packed into the school’s gymnasium to participate in an hour of exhausting exercise during the 5th Annual Sgt. Joshua D. Desforges Fitness Challenge, March 12.
The Marine combat-veteran perished on May 10, 2010, supporting combat operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Since 2011, the school has hosted the fitness challenge as a means to honor the memory of the Ludlow-native.
Participants, whose ages ranged from 13 to 64, endured as many pushups, dive-bombers, squat-jacks, steam engines, and other grueling exercise as they could without failing, during the hour-long event. Marine volunteers from the local reserve unit and recruiting station volunteered to supply encouragement and motivate the participants.
The first year, the challenge was used as a way to raise money for a memorial in Josh’s name. Three stone pillars bare the Marine Corps ethos of honor, courage, and commitment stand before a commemorative bench with the inscription: “Always Remember Sgt. Joshua D. Desforges U.S.M.C. Class of 2004.”
“My biggest fear is that Josh would be forgotten,” said Arlene Desforges, the Marine’s mother. “Mr. Cote promised me that that would never happen. That is how this all materialized.”
The challenge is used as a means to raise money for a scholarship award fund in Josh’s name. Participants paid an entry fee as a well as found people to sponsor them for the event. The scholarship award is given to Ludlow High School Students who graduate and display passion in pursuing their life’s dream, as Josh did.
“Anyone who applies, they don’t have to be an athlete, an A Student, they just have to have a passion for what they want to do in life,” said Tom Cote, a Marine Vietnam veteran and close friend of Josh who organized the challenge in past years. “Anybody is eligible, they just have to graduate.”
Each year the scholarship award fund has drawn in large amounts of money. This has allowed the Desforges family to give out more scholarships and in greater amounts. This past year, 20 Ludlow students were awarded $1,000 in Josh’s name.
“If the memorial and Josh’s life can inspire other kids to do something with their lives, then something good is coming out of it,” Arlene said. “It’s really about motivation and inspiration and commitment. If one kid is reached, it’s making a difference.”