The tightknit community that is the Evergreen School District took a major step forward this past Sunday morning in the ongoing healing process in dealing with the loss of Evergreen graduate and UT student 20-year old Sierah Joughin by hosting the Joggin 4 Joughin 5K Race to help raise money for the Sierah Joughin Memorial Scholarship Fund.
Hoping to attract around 300 entrants, the organizers were overwhelmed with love and support and flooded with so many entrants that they decided to cut the number off at 1600 to ensure they had the resources to safely manage all the runners, walkers and byciclists.
This was a day filled with emotion as many people honored Sierah’s memory and celebrated her life by smiling, laughing and fondly remembering the good times spent with her while some, still coming to grips with her senseless killing, hugged, cried and mourned.
The event was also used to ask for support for the Violent Offenders Registry bill currently being put together by Ohio Senators Randy Gardner and Cliff Hite.
Senator Gardner, who was in attendance, probably stated it best when he said, “Its great to see,” as he looked out over the enormous and enthusiastic crowd. “Yet, its not,” he continued, alluding to the sad underlying reason that brought everyone out this day.
This phenomenal event was the idea of Nicole Kinsman, a 2003 graduate of Evergreen High School and the mother of three young daughters. While she had never met Sierah or her family she felt she needed to do something to help ease the pain of the community and bring back a sense of normalcy to their daily lives.
Nicole learned that Sierah had been on the cross country team at Evergreen and still enjoyed running and that many people, especially women in the area, had stopped or curtailed that activity. She had even begged her best friend, an avid jogger, to stop running. “I was afraid,” said Nicole. “I was afraid for her. I was afraid for other women out there running. And then I was thinking to myself how unfair that is to ask that of people and for the people who were afraid to do it and had stopped doing it.”
The name Joggin 4 Joughin popped into her head and she soon contacted Sierah’s family to receive their blessing before moving forward. Nicole formed a committee of eight members, including Sierah’s mother, Shelia Vaculik and enlisted the help of Dave’s Running Shop to handle the race logistics. With the help of over 80 volunteers, the event came off without a hitch.
“What I want people to take from this is empowerment,” said Nicole. “I want them to feel empowered to continue to do what they love to do and what Sierah loved to do and to wear these (Joggin4Joughin) shirts when they go out to do it and keep honoring her.”
For the record Bryan Stambaugh of Fayette was the overall winner of the 5k race with a time of 17:42 and Marissa Ward of Tiffin was the first woman to cross the line with a time of 20:06.
But to be clear, this event was not really about the race. “It’s a celebration,” said Nicole emphasizing the main reason for the day was celebrating the life of Sierah Joughin and the countless lives she had touched in the resilient Evergreen community and beyond.
Bill O’Connell may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org