Union Middle School special education teacher Tina Gardner and paraprofessional aides Ashley Bowman, Rashita Hall and Aneisha Chandler brought volunteers and 25 runners together for the school’s second annual Disability Awareness Fun Run/Walk under cloudy skies and warm temperatures.
“We’re trying to raise awareness for disabilities and to raise funds for the special education classroom,” Gardner said as she and her team manned the registration table at the Big Stone Gap Visitors Center. “This is our second year, and while it’s not as busy as last year, we’ve got runners who came over after another run at UVa-Wise earlier today.”
The event is a family affair for Gardner, who brought her husband, Steve, a Union High School football and wrestling coach; and her son Kalen to help haul coolers of water, man a water station for runners and assist with the logistics of the run.
The event took advantage of Big Stone Gap’s Greenbelt trail for a shady, paved route. Gardner said the event got plenty of community support too.
“The Shack (food truck) is donating part of its proceeds today, and we’ve sold several T-shirts,” Gardner said. “The Shack has been a great help to us.”
Other sponsors of the run included the Appalachia Alumni Association, Appalachia and Big Stone Gap Lions Clubs, CVS Norton, Kerns and Wilkens Law Firm, Lowe’s, Mendy Robbins, Megan and Chris Rutherford, Pat Potter, Riggs Oil, Stacey’s Auto Advantage, Techwise, Tracy’s Salon and the Big Stone Gap Walmart.
Sheena Underwood made a three-way first-place finish for the run, pushing her sons Jayden and Sebastian in a sport stroller. Underwood’s older son, Dorian Almer, also placed first in the under-18 class.
Abby Whitman, who designed the run’s T-shirt this year, finished first among limited mobility participants.
Another many-as-one finish included Tracy Kress, Sabrina Dysart, Pam Hutchinson and Traci Barker of Complete Cardio and Fitness, as they locked arms to cross the finish line.
In other age classes, Harley Chandler received the medal for the age 19-29 class. Sheena Woodward received the award for 30-49 and Diana Kilgore received the medal for the age 50 and older class.
Eli Rutherford and Sandy Castle were recognized as the youngest and oldest participants respectively.
Union Middle School Principal Paul Clendenon also joined in the run.
Gardner said a limited number of Disability Awareness Fun Run/Walk T-shirts are available. For more information about the shirts or the event, contact Gardner at (276) 708-6301.