By Tim Gardner
In 2014, husband and wife, Adam and Brooke Burleson of the Mitchell County town of Spruce Pine, formed a foundation that sponsors an annual race named “Run For Holland,” which impacts an entire community and region in a most mighty manner. In fact, the race has grown into one of the top events of its kind not only in the North Carolina High Country, but in the State of North Carolina and beyond.
This year’s race will be held in Spruce Pine on Saturday, August 21st. It will begin at 8:30 a.m. at Riverside Park, located at 200 East Tappan Street. Information about the race and how to participate will be included later in this article, but how it came about is a most touching story—one of zenith inspiration and unspeakable love—and will first be shared.
It was seven years ago that the Burlesons learned that their daughter, Holland, would be born with Down Syndrome. The ensuing weeks were a blur for the Burlesons, who had many questions and uncertainties about what the future held for them and their daughter. Adam and Brooke were scared, confused and uneducated about having to raise and provide the necessary care for a child with such a disability.
One day the couple received an email from their genetic counselor containing Emily Perl Kingsley’s “Welcome to Holland,” a story about having a child with a disability. It uses a metaphor of excitement for a vacation in Italy that becomes a disappointment at first when the plane instead arrives in Holland.
“It’s just a different place,” an excerpt of the story reads. “It’s slower paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills and Holland had tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.”
The story gave them a new positive outlook on the situation and on life, while inspiring them to name their daughter Holland. And after Holland was born, her parents decided to start The Run For Holland Foundation, which features an annual race to raise awareness and money for the local community to help other parents who have children with physical and mental disabilities and to support charitable and civic organizations that help disabled persons and their families.
Adam Burleson, an avid runner, said he had wanted to organize a race in Spruce Pine for a long while. His daughter’s birth served as the catalyst for an event to raise awareness for physical and mental disabilities. While planning and laying the groundwork to have a run they met members from the running community who also had children with similar disabilities.
“We got the ball rolling for our race, had a goal in mind and shot for it,” shared Adam Burleson. “Everything kind of barrel-rolled at once and has continued to do so. Foremost, it’s been because of God. With His help, all things are possible, and our race and the great things that come from it are proof.”
In fact, the support for the race that first year is termed “amazing” by Adam Burleson. The ways it has continued to make significant impacts include raising more than $77,000.00 in grants to local and regional organizations who work to help those with disabilities. Schools, day care centers, camps, inclusion alliances and a YMCA have all had grants approved because of help from the Run For Holland Foundation.
Heather Marie Burleson, sister of Adam, echoed his sentiments about the race, with the following comments: “I’m beyond proud of the work that the Run For Holland is doing in Mitchell County and the surrounding areas. My brother Adam & sister-in-law, Brooke, have truly created an incredible non-profit organization that’s able to give back to the special needs community in a big way. The grants we have fulfilled over the past seven years is very special. Those dollars pour right back into the community.
“Each year Run For Holland participants, followers, donators, and supporters come together to orchestrate this great race for a great cause. I’m beyond honored to have the privilege of serving on the Run for Holland Foundation Board of Directors and thrilled to be a part of this event each year- it’s a day that makes my heart full of joy.”
The Run For Holland race consists of three different divisions. The 5K is 3.19 miles in length; the 10K is 6.27 miles long; and the Fun Run is open to anyone–from kids who want to show off their super speed, to adults just looking to participate and anyone with a disability who wants to do a fun run instead of the 5K. The Fun Run starts at the Spruce Pine First Baptist Church.
Adam Burleson said hundreds have participated in the race since its inception and that there are several ways for those interested to get involved with the Run For Holland Foundation. Those include 1) Signing up to run the 5K or 10K race; 2) Signing up to push a wheelchair or other apparatus with a disabled person in the 5K race; 3) Signing up to volunteer to help with the race in various capacities; 4) Making a donation to the foundation; 5) Signing up to be a Spirit Runner; and 6) Come hang out, come cheer, make a sign to show support and clap your hands- we would love to see more people in the community come be a part of this special day!
He added that many of the participants in the race are from Mitchell, Avery and Yancey Counties, but that they have come from various other places across the North Carolina High Country and some from even hundreds of miles away.
Adam Burleson said he encourages others to participate in the race even if they just walk in it.
“I challenge everyone to try and walk it,” he declared. “Most anyone can walk a 5k. The point of the event is for people to interact with those who have disabilities and to raise awareness, while helping provide much needed financial funding.”
Heather Marie Burleson added: “We want to give a special thank you to our sponsors and to Speed for Need for partnering with the Run For Holland Foundation. They allow us to have special push chairs available on race day to serve our track commanders, who otherwise may not be able to participate lead the way on race day and are pushed by volunteers through our 5k course.
“I will push a chair on race day this year, which I have done in previous races and is a great honor. I don’t live in Spruce Pine any longer, but I typically round up and bring 15-20 out of town guests to participate in the race or as volunteers.”
“Our family and our board of directors are very excited for our 8th annual race. We can’t wait to see you in Spruce Pine at the start line on August 21st!”
Anyone can register for the race by using this web site link: https://runsignup.com/Race/Register/?raceId=26138
For more information about the race or to make a donation, log online to: www.runforholland.com. Further details can also be obtained by phone from Adam Burleson (828) 385-2341 or Brooke Burleson (828) 467-6104.
Those wishing to donate via U.S. Mail can do so by sending a check or money order to: The Run For Holland Foundation, C/O Adam Burleson, 141 Highland Avenue, Spruce Pine, NC 28777.