The plan of 26 local residents to run relay style from Cleveland to Boston in eight days might sound ridiculous until the naysayers realize there is a community supporting the cause.
It is “The City With Spirit,” to be exact.
The runners and support crew of Run Now Relay have worked tirelessly to spread the word. Their efforts have been awarded with sponsorships, donations and fundraisers handled by local schools.
Clark Campbell, social media director for the relay, is impressed with the response the project has evoked in the local community.
“It is easy to be trapped in a bubble in the South. It is very easy to live life in a comfortable, not highly affected economy ... but this town in the last five or six years has not grown complacent to the needs of the country,” Campbell said. “This town has actually increased its heart for our country, which has gone through so much from the [economic] crash in 2008 to the Boston bombing.”
Hopewell Elementary was one of the first schools to show support for the runners. The young students collected pocket change every day for about a week. Faculty members discreetly added their donations and the totals reached over $600.
Participant Tricia Sherlin recently alerted relay organizer Matt Ryerson of another school community determined to show its support.
She said faculty members Beth Finnell, Coach Ed Coates and Coach Eddie Frazier encouraged their peers and students to donate to the cause. The students and staff raised around $1,000. The money will benefit Run Now’s charitable partners: Dream Big! and the One Step Ahead Foundation.
The students created a video to describe why they wanted to donate money for the two nonprofits. Some students said they gave because the nonprofits, “give kids like us a chance to play sports.” Others said the work completed by the charitable partners, “helps kids feel like they have a place to belong.”
Sherlin said it has been exciting to see students tap into their own gifts for the cause.
“Some of the students involved in creating the video have special needs, yet thrive in sports — namely cross-country and track — so this cause is close to their hearts,” she said. “One child who had a big part in creating the film is diagnosed with autism, and has a special interest and talent in developing iMovies.”
Additional sponsorships include:
- Locally owned and operated Cooke’s Food Stores donated snacks for runners through the duration of the trip;
- Jimmy John’s sandwiches promised to provide 50 sub sandwiches for the road;
- Local band Tuxedo T-Shirt will play music at the official launch on Saturday at no charge;
- Locally bottled Coca-Cola donated 800 cases of water and PowerAde to keep the runners fueled along the run;
- Locally owned and operated Shades of Grey Photography will set out alongside the runners to take photos and documentary footage throughout the eight-day journey;
- Locally owned and operated Panera Bread will feed the entire team along the route to Boston in addition to the food provided at the launch party Tuesday night;
- Locally owned and operated Holiday Inn Express hosted the launch party and aided the group in setting up hotel accommodations along the route;
- Brooks Printing, locally owned and operated, produced the team training and race shirts at no charge;
- Don Ledford Chevrolet loaned the team four SUVs to transport runners and gear to Boston and back, and as a bonus, Debbie Melton decorated the vehicle with Run Now stickers;
- Local nonprofit Men and Women of Action loaned the relay its Command Center for the trip;
- Mayor Tom Rowland stepped up to participate on the planning and logistics team in addition to promoting the event throughout the campaign;
- Rep. Kevin Brooks has also promoted the cause statewide;
- Local nonprofit People for Care and Learning has served as the fiscal agent and “war room” at no administrative fee, which ensures 100 percent of the donations go to the two charities; and
- Lee University and Great Strides 5K will allow the relay group to launch and celebrate the first steps at Saturday’s event.
Added Ryerson, “And probably most importantly, the many people who have given donations to the cause in support of people they’ve never met in Boston.”
Donations to the cause can be made online at runnowrelay.org. According to Clark, a new website runnowrelaylive.com will launch along with the runners on Saturday.
The social media director said the Cleveland community has made him believe in the moniker “The City With Spirit.” He said the name has come to life in so many ways from the local 5Ks to the support for Run Now Relay.
“There have been seeds planted all over the world [by Cleveland residents] that we can see the fruits of today,” Campbell said. “Sitting here today, it is mind-blowing the things we have done.”