By Sherrie Norris
Missing last year’s face-to-face fundraising event due to Covid— but still raising $13,000 with 178 racers participating virtually — only fueled the fire and excitement for folks behind this year’s upcoming Spooky Duke 5k, 10k Race and Costume March, scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 16. The race and festivities will also include a silent auction, which will be held virtually from Wednesday, Oct. 6- Monday, Oct. 18.
Always drawing a large crowd of those who love to help others, this fundraiser for the Parent to Parent Family Support Network is a very important event and hopefully will be bigger and better than ever, said Kaaren Hayes, program director.
Not only do participants and organizers come together to help support the organization, everyone involved just has a fun time being together. And they know the proceeds will go toward assisting regional families who have children with special needs.
Last year’s unique event saw online participants walking, running, biking, rowing, hopscotching and doing the Monster Mash for a good cause.
The organization reported that through sponsorships, donations, a silent auction and participation fees, the event raised more than $8,000, with a $5,000 matching grant from The Health Foundation Inc. raising the total to over $13,000, with individuals ages 6-84, and from across the nation, completing either a 1K, 5K or 10K race as part of the event — at their own pace and on their own time, from Oct. 19–31.
Now returning in real life for its 11th year, Spooky Duke, a USA Track & Field certified 5K and 10K race, also offers a free costume march and contest for children, adults and pets to show off their unique costumes and share in the fun, Hayes said.
Online registration for the main event is open through October 15.
The 5k starts at 9 a.m. with $25 registration fee. The 10k registration is $30. Registrations received by Oct. 1 will include a long sleeve T-shirt. Student teams can register a group of 15 for $15.
The course is described as “relatively flat with small hiss and sidewalk terrain. Walkers are also welcome to register for the 5K.
The free costume march starts at 10 a.m.
Once again, virtual participation will also be recognized, with individuals completing their own distance on the course of their choosing.
All participants are also encouraged to dress up. Costume prizes will be given.
Spooky Duke History
According to Hayes, the event began as a 5K in 2011, a final project of an App State social work major, Jennifer McClure, who was an intern with the program. Hayes said it was McClure’s dream to see it thrive, and there’s no question about that happening.
The event was named to honor event sponsor, Dr. Charles R. Duke, former Dean of the Reich College of Education, and to celebrate the Halloween theme, thus the name “Spooky Duke” was born.
Duke was proud to be associated with the Parent to Parent program, he had said, adding that its good work and resources have made a profound and positive difference in the lives of many families.
Hayes described Parent to Parent Family Support Network-High Country as an organization that provides support, education and caring connections to families who have children with diverse physical, emotional, intellectual or health needs, have a child born prematurely, or are grieving the death of a child.
The program serves families in Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey Counties of the High Country.
Its multi-faceted vision,” Hayes said, “Is to touch every family in our community who needs our support, and includes the following: To be a caring, compassionate organization that is integrated into the communities we serve, creating a lasting impact, and increasing understanding and acceptance of individuals with diverse abilities and special needs.”
Core beliefs of PFSN-HC include the fact that one of the greatest assets any child can have is a strong family; also that all children have abilities and gifts to give; all children deserve the opportunity to be the very best they can be; and, when families need help, one of the greatest resources can be another family.
“We all have a role to play in building caring communities that help create opportunities for our children,” Hayes added, “We recognize that powerful change can take place in families, in our communities and in our world when families have the tools they need and can see the potentials realized for their children.”
Most services or programs for families who have children with special needs have very specific eligibility requirements, Hayes emphasized. “We have an open door. The support we offer is not determined by or limited by family income, age of the child, specific disability or health condition. There is no official ‘intake’ process or need to be referred. Our services are free and anyone may contact the program and receive our help.”
Hayes continued, “We have learned so much from the families who are a part of our program about resiliency and celebrating the positives in life. Their inspiration has help sustain our organization as we have had to adjust to this new reality.”
And what about Covid’s impact, we asked? “It has certainly challenged us to be creative. We are a program that is based on relationships and providing caring connections. So, since our caregiver groups can’t meet, we are delivering fun activities to the families and visiting through the screen doors, meeting families in parking lots and giving them a pizza for their dinner, posting information daily on our Facebook pages and continuing to connect by phone, email and zoom. They continually encourage me to always look at strengths, in others but also in myself.”
Several hundred runners are expected for this 11th annual event, plus their families and supporters, said Hayes. “Participants are Appalachian students and local families who believe that giving back to their community is important, and who support businesses that do the same.”
The event is supported by Reich College of Education and Appalachian State University and will kick-off at the Raley/Peacock Lot on AppState’s campus, located at 416 Howard Street in Boone.
Registration is now underway and may be completed at the following websites where more information may also be obtained: parent2parent.appstate.edu. and at appstate.edu/race.
To access the silent auction, visit parent2parent.appstate.edu/2021-spooky-duke-silent-auction.Or you may contact Hayes at firstname.lastname@example.org.