Published 12:00 am Monday, November 25, 2013
“I have never seen such a large turnout for a first time 5K. Usually, 100 people or so is about all you can expect,” said Spencer Assistant Fire Chief Terry Smith. Smith knows a lot about races and organizing them because he heads up the St. Patrick’s Day 5K in Salisbury each year. He added,“This was truly a day that the North Rowan and Spencer community came out to honor a lady that we all love.”
And turn out they did. Over 300 runners registered for the 5K, and hundreds more gathered at the high school to volunteer or just be a part of the proceedings. Cool and cloudy weather did nothing to dampen high spirits as the race went off to perfection, but this time the true success was much more than that. “Everybody loves Kim” became the phrase of the day.
Kim Smith is a fixture in Spencer and at North Rowan High School. She has been the school secretary for 25 years, and has touched so many lives during that time that school staff and various organizations lined up to help when Smith was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Debbie Sousa, Health Science Educator and high school classmate of Smith, wanted to do something to honor Kim in her time of need. Very soon, other staff at the school jumped on the bandwagon with Sousa and started planning an event. Sousa, Smith’s family, and teacher Kathy Pardue explored several options and settled on a 5K fundraiser. None of the staff or family had any experience organizing a race, but they gathered help within the community that allowed significant progress to be made quickly. Cloninger Ford came onboard as the title sponsor of the event, and from that point on the wheels were rolling. Sousa said, “When Kim needed help, we knew that we could make a difference for her.”
Smith recounted her love for the school, even from early childhood, “Having been a Cavalier all of my life, everyone knows that my blood is green. My daddy used to attend every football game if he wasn’t working, so my love for North Rowan football started at a very young age. My brother Dennis was in the first graduating class. My sisters, Kris and Susan, husband, Bob, and son, Kyle, are all graduates of North. North Rowan High School will always be my second family.”
When asked if she had ever considered working anywhere else, Smith replied, “I was offered a job at the school system central office but I just couldn’t leave the students and North Rowan High. Now everyone knows why I am still here.”
Though time was short, Sousa and Pardue pushed forward with plans for the race. Sponsors, neighbors and friends came forward wanting to be involved. They enlisted the help of anyone willing to spread the word. Momentum began to grow quickly, and shirts, awards, and other essentials were ordered. A true barometer of the event was the initial order for participant shirts. Pardue wasn’t sure that the race would need 150, wondering what to do if they had some left over.
In the meantime, students like junior Taylor Starnes got involved. She said, “There was so much energy. We knew that Mrs. Smith really needed the help. We wanted to help out with her bills, so that she could get better faster. Everybody misses her. She is such a big part of our school.”
By the time Saturday’s race day came around, there was so much community involvement that shirts had to be ordered two more times and the printer had to figure out how to put a huge number of sponsors on the back of the shirt.
Everyone hoped that Smith could make it to the race. Word got around that she was going to try, especially if the weather was good. Nobody knew if Smith could hang around very long, but they were going to be happy to have her there. Luke Miller, a junior and office assistant, was planning to run his first 5K. Miller said, “Mrs. Smith is more than just an office lady in school. I am really looking forward to having her back. It is an honor to run the 5K to support her. She went to school here with my dad.”
Surrounded by husband, Bob, and lots of family and friends, Kim Smith did make it to the start. She walked around and thanked many of the participants, and then served as the official race starter for the both the 5K and kids’ fun run. Later, Smith addressed the crowd gathered in the school auditorium, “I was totally amazed today at the number of participants, volunteers and supporters. The love shown to me has made me want to fight even harder, so that I can eventually help someone else. I would like to thank everyone who helped put the 1st Annual Cavaliers 5K Run/Walk for a Cure together. Your hard work definitely showed and it is appreciated.”
Veteran runner Bobby Aswell added, “This was a very well organized event and for such a good cause. It was good to see Kim because we all can relate to her. We all know someone who is battling cancer.”
Pardue chimed in as she recapped the success of the event, “Thanks to everyone who had a part in this today. What a blessing! The Lord had his hand on this once Cloninger Ford came on board and momentum started building. Today just showed how wonderful our North Rowan community is when one of our own is in need.”
Overall winners were Phillip Straight with a time of 17 minutes and 59 seconds and Debbie Dickson with a time of 22 minutes and 14 seconds. Complete results are posted at www.salisburyrowanrunners.org.
Anyone who would like to donate to the Cavaliers 5K Run For a Cure can still do that by mailing or dropping them off at the school. All proceeds will be split between the Kim Smith medical bills and Relay for Life. North Rowan High School is at 328 North Whitehead Avenue, Spencer, NC 28159. An account has been established at Wells Fargo Bank also. Direct deposits can be made by asking for Debbie Sousa’s account, and it will pop up as the Cavaliers 5K Run/Walk for a Cure.