Sometimes the best way to honor someone you’ve loved and lost is with a celebration. At least that is what Roberta Humphries chooses to do. She lost her son Ryan Patrick Kishbaugh to Hodgkin’s Lymphoma when he was 18. And every year since, she invites the public to commemorate Ryan and rejoice in all that is fun and good and true about living a healthy life. She does this by putting on a 5K run — Ryan’s Reindeer Run. This run is about more than pounding out some steps in the name of a good cause. It is about having fun, cherishing loved ones and making memories. This year, Ryan’s Reindeer Run falls on Dec. 19.
For Humphries it just makes sense to have a road race in honor of Ryan. He loved running and learning and volunteering. In his short life, Ryan worked hard to be the best person he knew how to be and to make the world a better place. He wrote a book called Run Because You Can: My Personal Race with Cancer. It chronicles his experience during his 15-month fight.
The race is a lot of fun and gets bigger and better every year with more than 1,000 runners registering for the event. Not only does this race celebrate Ryan’s life, the proceeds go to the Ryan P. Kishbaugh Memorial Foundation to help others. The foundation has donated more than $131,000 to local nonprofits since2013.
“This is such a rewarding event because the money from the race goes to other nonprofits that provide services to children and people with cancer. It all goes back into the community,” said Humphries. “I do make a donation to Duke Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Center and Support Program so families who have needs while their child receives a transplant can have those needs met. We always give to Make a Wish Foundation to help provide a trip for a terminally ill child from Cumberland County. The Friends of the Cancer Center, the Child Advocacy Center, Better Health, the Care Clinic and other organizations also receive funds. It is nice to be able to give back as much as we do. It is very rewarding to help others.”
Humphries noted that the reason the Ryan P. Kishbaugh Foundation can be so generous is that once expenses are covered, every bit goes to charitable organizations. There is also a small amount that is saved to pay for the next year’s race.
“Nobody makes money on the run,” said Humphries. “None of the volunteers gets paid and I don’t take a salary or anything like that.”
This is a family friendly 5K and Humphries does her best every year to make it fun for everyone. Santa will be on hand for anyone who wants to take pictures with him.
“We also hope to have an antique car or fire engine there for pictures, too,” said Humphries. “We have contests for the best decorated strollers, we have holiday sweater contests. It really is a fun, family-friendly get together.”
It takes about six months to put the race together, and just when everyone else is getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving things kick into high gear. They stay at a frantic pace until race day is over. But it is worth it.
“When it all comes together and I see everyone take off at the start, it is a big relief for me,” said Humphries. “And then when it all comes together and you see everyone having fun it is the best feeling.”
Registration includes both single and team categories. Prizes are awarded to the top overall male and female finishers in the under 13, 13-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69 and 70 and over categories. Participants younger than 13, receive a finisher’s award. Prizes also go to the first three pet finishers and their owners, the three fastest family finishers, the best costumed runners and the three fastest strollers and runners and the best decorated strollers.
Team trophies are given to the school, club or organization with the largest number of participants. A team must have a minimum of 10 participants to qualify as a team. Groups must register by Dec. 18.
Those who register as part of a family are not eligible for individual prizes but can compete for family prizes. A family entry must have between three and six runners who are part of the same family.
While dogs are welcome, they must be on a leash at all times and owners are responsible for cleaning up after their dogs. Walkers, noncompetitive runners with dogs and/or strollers should start in the back of the group.
Registration for individuals is $30; individuals under 13 is $20; family entries are $90 and include four T-shirts, two additional family members can register for $20 each.
This year is the 10th anniversary; with that in mind, there are some changes to the medals.
“I used to design and make the medals myself,” said Humphries. “The race is too big for me to do that now, so the medals are made for us. This year’s has the Ryan’s Reindeer Run logo on it and notes that it is the 10th anniversary. We are giving them out to the first 700 registrants.”
The race starts and ends at the Medical Arts Building in downtown Fayetteville at the corner of Robeson and Hay Streets. It’s a nice course but requires some effort — that is by design.
“Because life is challenging,” said Humphries.
To register for the race, or to find out more about Ryan’s Reindeer Run, visit www.ryansreindeerrun.com.