It has served its purpose.
Its outreach to the good in humanity, and its line in the sand against anybody and anything who would wrong the innocent, will never be forgotten — not by its courageous participants nor their loved ones nor any within our community who understand the exhausting detail that was required to make it all happen.
Over the past two weeks, this newspaper has dedicated a profound amount of space to this unparalleled event and to the visionaries who took an idea last summer and grew it into reality almost a year later. The Cleveland Daily Banner has approached our coverage through front-page articles featuring a series of personal perspectives penned by the runners themselves, editorials and personal columns.
Now we do so once more.
And this time, we seek our readers’ — and this community’s — support. Such a response is needed Saturday.
After presenting checks totaling more than $63,000 to two difference-making Boston charities — Dream Big! and the One Step Ahead Foundation — at the Boston Marathon start line last Saturday, the Run Now Relay participants began returning home to Southeast Tennessee in waves.
Some remained in order to finish the relay’s final leg — the actual 26.2-mile Boston Marathon — last Monday. Four ran the exhausting granddaddy of all marathons: Johnny “Marathon” Clemons, Matt Carlson, Matt Ryerson and Fred Garmon. Each finished the race in staggered times.
Several other Cleveland runners and support crew members stayed as well. One, they wanted to live the Boston Marathon “experience.” Two, they wanted to cheer for their four teammates who had been selected to endure the relay’s final stretch. And three, they wanted to seal an everlasting alliance between Boston Strong and Tennessee Tough.
This small group included Duane Goff, Corey Divel, Don Bennett, Teddy Bennett, Cameron Fisher and Clark Campbell. The runners among them likely would have loved nothing more than to join their teammates in the marathon, but only three spots (Carlson, Garmon and Ryerson) were allotted to the team. Clemons, who ran training marathons almost daily during the relay itself, had qualified as an elite runner for the Boston race.
In the absence of being able to run, Run Now Relayers Goff, Divel, Bennett, Bennett, Fisher and Campbell gave the next best type of support to their teammates and to Boston Strong. They gave their presence.
Each demonstrated why Tennessee continues to live up to its nickname as The Volunteer State. All served as the finest of ambassadors for “The City With Spirit,” as well as for the entirety of Bradley County.
Those who brainstormed Run Now Relay and who gave it a face with hearts of gold have served our community well.
And now has come the time for our hometown to show its appreciation.
Since Monday’s marathon, Run Now Relay team members have not been in the same room, under a common roof or even shared the same air.
That will change Saturday.
At 9 a.m. from the Bradley County Courthouse Plaza in beautiful downtown Cleveland, the team will be reunited in a “Heroes Welcome Home” ceremony. Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland and Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis will be on hand to salute the individuals, as will state Reps. Kevin Brooks and Eric Watson, and state Sens. Mike Bell and Todd Gardenhire.
Ambassador awards will be presented and team members will be introduced and allowed to say a few words.
The lively, perhaps even emotional, event is open to the public and we encourage a strong turnout. Run Now Relay participants have earned this community’s “thank you.” We hope hundreds, perhaps even thousands, will take this opportunity to show their appreciation.
It isn’t about personal egos. It isn’t about added publicity. It isn’t about bragging rights. It’s about reaching out to those who reached from deep within to send a message of unity at a time when the people of Boston needed a friend.
Outreaches like Run Now Relay, and other humanitarian initiatives from across America, played invaluable roles in the city of Boston becoming Boston Strong.
Saturday’s festivities are being coordinated by Janey Cooke whose daughter, Britney, was one of the dedicated runners.
We can think of a hundred reasons to attend Saturday’s one-hour ceremony.
Thirty-three have to do with people you may know — the 25 runners, seven support crew members and one who did both — who gave life to Run Now Relay.
Now allow us — their community — to give it words.
And let them flow from the heart.
We urge Cleveland and Bradley County residents to drop by the Courthouse Plaza Saturday morning.
Those behind Run Now Relay have earned our thanks.