Running to remember: Locally created charity events honor the living and the dead

Running to remember: Locally created charity events honor the living and the dead

May 28th, 2013 by Karen Nazor Hill in Entertainment

Twelve-year-old Kaitlyn McAfee, right, does strengthening exercises with trainer Amanda Holmes at Pure Barre. She is training to prepare her body to participate in Color the Curve, a 5K color run she founded to raise money for the National Scoliosis Foundation.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

Zoe's Rainbow Dash 5K Color Run was created to honor Zoe, left, and her grandmother Sue McDonough, both of whom died last summer.

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

GET INVOLVED

Zoe's Rainbow Dash

What: 5K race, mostly flat course around Hamilton Place mall, raises money for children's charities

When: 8 a.m. July 4

Where: Hamilton Place mall

Cost: $35, ages 13 and over; $20 ages 5-12, $20; free under 5

Contact: zoesrainbowdash.com

Color the Curve

What: 5K color race to benefit scoliosis research

When: 9 a.m. June 8; today is last day to preregister

Where: Greenway Farms

Cost: $35 individual runner; $30 team members; $25 1-mile runners; $30 virtual racers (online)

Contact: colorthecurve.com

7 Bridges Marathon with Team CMB

What: 7 Bridges Marathon, 4 Bridges Half Marathon, 2 Bridges 5K, Family Fun Run. Running for Team CMB of the Christian Bryant Foundation raises money for Erlanger hospital's Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders

Where: North Shore and downtown

When: Oct. 20; 7 a.m. marathon/half-marathon, 7:30 a.m. 5K; 10 a.m. Family Fun Run

Cost: $95 marathon; $75 half-marathon; $30 5K; $20 Fun Run

Contact: www.sevenbridgesmarathon.com or visit the Team CMB page on Facebook

It was a warm, sunny summer day last July 5 when the McDonoughs took their double-decker pontoon boat out on Chickamauga Lake.

Leah McDonough said it was a last-minute decision to take one more lake trip before relatives left the next day to return home to Minnesota.

Fate had other plans.

"We were all relaxing in the sun, enjoying the last precious hours of family time together," she says. "From out of nowhere appeared a dark, roaring cloud coming upon us very suddenly. ... Before we knew it, the boat had flipped and we were all desperately fighting for our lives."

The McDonoughs' 10-year-old daughter Zoe and her grandmother, Sue McDonough -- husband Brett McDonough's mother -- were trapped underneath the boat.

"With CPR and medical treatment, they both regained a heart rate but never consciousness," Leah McDonough says. "We felt that it was God's way of giving us a few more hours to say our goodbyes before they both died the next morning."

To honor the grandmother and granddaughter while raising money for local children's charities, the family initiated the Zoe's Rainbow Dash 5K color run, set for its debut July 4 at Hamilton Place mall. The race is appropriate for everyone -- children, walkers, joggers and runners, organizers say.

The family's run is part of a trend nationally in which sporting and athletic events are becoming an increasingly popular way to raise money for charitable causes.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, tens of millions of Americans every year ask friends to sponsor them i.e. give money -- in events ranging from 3-mile "fun runs" to 100-mile bike treks. Charitable sporting events have exploded into a high-profile funding source for some of the nation's biggest nonprofits, the story said.

Meanwhile, the ever-growing movement also includes tens of thousands of tiny "thons" collecting for schools, hospitals, homeless shelters, research groups and others, the report notes. Some of those smaller "thons" are created by families and friends directly affected by tragedy, be it a deadly or debilitating disease or a fatal disaster, such as someone killed by a drunk driver or in a horrible accident.

In the case of the Zoe Rainbow Dash, Jenny Johnson Smith, a member of the race's organizing committee, says the race not only raises money for charities, it keeps fresh the memories of those lost.

"Though their lives were cut short, we pray that they will continue to bring joy to those who run this race," says Smith, a friend of the McDonough family. "Sue and Zoe were both so sweet and caring, always expressing more concern for others than for themselves."

Curvy girls

During a routine sports physical in February 2012, sixth-grader Kaitlyn McAfee was diagnosed with scoliosis, a musculoskeletal disorder in which the spine curves sideways.

Kaitlyn, 12, had never heard of scoliosis, but instead of shrouding herself in fear, she did the opposite, searching the Web to arm herself with information.

According to mayoclinic.com, scoliosis occurs most often in girls during the growth spurt just before puberty. Its cause is unknown. Most cases are mild, but some children develop spinal deformities that get worse as they grow. In some cases, surgery is needed to keep the scoliosis from worsening or to straighten severe cases.

Last December, Kaitlyn underwent spinal fusion surgery and now has two rods and 17 screws in her back. Still, she's planning to walk -- and possibly run -- in "Color the Curve, a 5K Color Race for Scoliosis" on June 8, an event she founded to raise money for the National Scoliosis Foundation.

"It takes about a year for the fusion to completely take," she says. "After that, I should be able to return to most all activities and lead a normal life."

"One of her goals, beyond helping others diagnosed with scoliosis, is to raise money for scoliosis," says Kaitlyn's mom, Jennifer McAfee. "She loves to run and wanted to do a 5K fundraiser."

In addition to the Color the Curve race, Kaitlyn also founded the first Tennessee chapter of International Curvy Girls, a peer-to-peer and family-to-family scoliosis support group she learned about on the Internet.

Kaitlyn is doing core-strengthening exercises with Amanda Holmes at Pure Barre in East Brainerd in an effort to get her body ready for running in the race.

With National Scoliosis Month set every June, Kaitlyn wants to make the race an annual event, "even though it is a lot of work."

"It's very rewarding, and it's amazing how many other people I've met that have scoliosis.

"Since it's the first year for Color the Curve, it's been hard to guess at how much [money] we will raise," she says. "People that can't make it to Chattanooga for the event can either choose to simply donate or register as a 'virtual racer'; they pay the registration fee and we mail a T-shirt after the event. I just want to raise as much money as possible."

Christian Bryant was 18 when she died on May 26,2012, after battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia. In October 2012, more than 300 people participated in the Seven Bridges Marathon on Team CMB (Christian M. Bryant) in honor of the former GPS cross-country runner.

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

Christian's Foundation

Christian Bryant wanted to change the world and make it a better place for future generations, says her mom, Robyn Bryant. And before her death on May 26, 2012, from acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the 18-year-old had started doing just that.

"During her seventh-grade year [at Girls Preparatory School], one of her teachers asked the girls to think of something they could do to change the world," Robyn Bryant says. "So Christian and two other girls came up with a plan for a Civilian Day at GPS to raise money for Doctors Without Borders."

Their efforts raised more than $1,000 for the organization, an international medical humanitarian group that provides medical assistance in more than 60 countries.

Christian, a cross-country runner at GPS, first got sick at the end of her junior year, her mom says, but she wasn't diagnosed with leukemia until she attended a summer camp for cross-country runners two weeks before her senior year began. She had developed a fever with an aggressive infection while at camp.

"I picked her up 48 hours after she left home [for camp] and she was directly admitted to T.C. Thompson Children's Hospital that night," Bryant says.

It was soon evident that Christian's case would be complicated.

"After being discharged from the hospital in time for some special senior events and the start of school, she was quickly readmitted," Bryant says.

Still, Christian continued to try to save the world. While in treatment, she started a recycling project in the oncology clinic at Children's.

"She and her primary oncologist had a plan to investigate recycling unused medical products," her mother says.

Meanwhile, Christian applied and was accepted to the Georgia Institute of Technology.

"Sitting in her hospital bed, she made sure all the deposits were paid for her admission and everything was a go," Bryant says. "She even met her potential roommate. They conversed on Facebook and planned to room together in the fall of 2012."

The last two months of her life were met with "complication after complication," her mom says.

The morning after Christian died, her family and friends came up with The Christian Bryant Foundation, part of the Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia, Bryant says. The long-range goal is to help Erlanger hospital's Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders become a free-standing hospital, as well as providing assistance to families at the center.

Though the foundation is not a fundraising organization per se, a group of people formed a team, Team CMB (Christian M. Bryant), to participate in the 7 Bridges Marathon last October in Chattanooga.

"Christian was a runner and what better way to honor her memory than having a team for a running event?" her mother asks, noting that 300 people were on the team. "The race organizers donated all the profit from the sale of Team CMB T-shirts and hats to The Christian Bryant Foundation."

Denny Marshall, president at Scenic City Multisport, the organization that produces 7 Bridges Marathon, says Team CMB was the largest group to participate in last year's race.

"They had, by far, the largest team and raised money for their great cause," Marshall says. "They also had almost 100 volunteers and were voted the 'funnest' water stop for the whole race."

Last month, students from GPS and McCallie schools participated in the "Mission/Remission" 2.7-mile walk in downtown Chattanooga, where they raised $6,000 for The Christian Bryant Foundation. The money will be used for cancer research, Bryant says.

Team CMB will again participate in 7 Bridges Marathon next October in an effort to raise more money for Christian's foundation, Bryant says. The event offers different courses for running, including full 26.2-mile marathon and 13.1-mile half-marathon courses, a 5K and a family-oriented "fun" run.

"What I love about the event is that it has something for everyone," she says. "I am not a runner, but walked the half marathon last year. I am registered to do the half again this year."

Contact staff writer Karen Nazor Hill at khill@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6396. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/karennazorhill. Subscribe to her posts on Facebook at www.facebook.com/karennazorhill.