A Chance to Raise Awareness
Shawn and Tonya Cool ran their first 5K with the Tug Valley Road Runners Club (TVRRC) in 2011. Right after the race, the pair joined the Tug Valley Road Runners Club, “and the rest is history,” says Shawn. He’s now the proud Vice President of the Running Club.
Every month, TVRRC has an event, and shortly after joining, Tonya noticed that there was an opening for an annual run in July. Her mom battled Crohn’s disease throughout her life before passing away in May of 2000. Tonya helped her mother in any way that she could throughout her life, and she saw an opportunity to bring awareness to Crohn’s disease.
On July 19, 2013, the club hosted the 1st Annual Kickin’ Butt for Crohn’s Jean Stanley Memorial 5K-1 Mile Walk. The course of the race ran through West Williamson, and all of the proceeds went to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation in memory of Tonya’s mom, Jean Stanley.
Since then, participation has risen from 120 runners to almost 300, and they continue to donate all proceeds. Shawn hopes that the money they raise every year will go on to help someone like Jean. “This event started because of her (Tonya’s) strong will to make a difference and hopefully the small amount of money we donate will help someone.”
Going Above and Beyond for a Cause
Each year, the organizers strive to make the race even better. The tight-knit community encourages newcomers. “We go out not to run fast, but to inspire people to come out and inspire people to just come out and complete your first one-mile walk or 5K,” says Shawn.
The club also goes above and beyond with their trophies and finisher’s medal. They even have their favorite “last place” award, which is the biggest and best trophy available. It’s more than
just a joke; for Shawn, it emphasizes what he thinks is so great about their running club. “It’s not about winning these events, it’s about finishing what you started...first place runs the same course as last place… it’s to show that you accomplished what you started. That’s what it’s about.”
When asked what makes this race different from others hosted by TVRRC, Shawn points to the runners. “This group is honestly one of a kind.” Many of the runners are battling Crohn’s disease themselves, or have family members with it. Susan Hagel has made the drive from Norfolk, VA to Williamson every year to participate in the race because she has Crohn’s, and other runners bring groups of friends to run alongside them for support.
“It Makes Me Proud To Live Here”
The race isn’t just important to those whose lives have been affected by Crohn’s. The running community in Williamson is passionate and loves any opportunity to run together and support one another. They also make it a point to remember those in ran in the 5K in the past.
Scott Poole, a young man remembered in Williamson for his positive attitude and big smile, helped to make the first race happen. Since he passed away in 2014, every participant has received a wristband saying “do more of what makes you happy”, a favorite catchphrase of Scott’s. In July 2018, Robin Porter passed away shortly before the 6th annual race. Robin was another avid runner in town, and her brother ran in the 2018 Kickin’ Butt for Crohn’s 5K in her honor.
Summing up his feelings about the race, Shawn says “our community comes together for this event, and it makes me proud to live here.”
The 7th Annual Kickin’ Butt for Crohn’s 5K and 1 Mile Walk will be on July 26, 2018. The race begins at 7 p.m. at the Williamson Field House, and this will be the first time the race is professionally timed. Those interested in participating can register at the Williamson Health and Wellness Center, the Coal House, or do so online. Same-day registration will start at 5 p.m., but Shawn encourages those interested to register beforehand so that they can have an event t-shirt. To learn more about the race, visit their Facebook page.