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The Collegian

A Hero’s 5K Race to honor, support Greenville veterans

A Hero’s 5K, a local race supporting Greenville veterans, will be held Feb. 1 on the Furman University campus.

This race was founded in 2010 to commemorate Spc. Geoffrey Whitsitt, a 21-year-old veteran from Greenville, who was killed in active duty in Afghanistan.

Geoffrey’s mother, Debby Whitsitt, made a list of goals to help her cope with her son’s death. The first was, “I will get out of bed every day,” followed by, “I will take a step every day.” Number nine in the progression was this: “I will build up to walking three miles by Geoffrey’s birthdate (Feb. 5).”

“It just so happens that 3.1 miles equals a 5K,” she said. “Geoffrey is a hero; thus, ‘A Hero’s 5K.’”

To honor Geoffrey’s sacrifice and raise awareness for all military personnel, A Hero’s 5K donates all proceeds from the race to the cause of aiding veterans and their families.

This year’s proceeds will be donated to two organizations: Upstate Warrior Solution and Patriot Rovers Inc. UWS is a South Carolina non-profit organization that guides veterans through the process of re-entering American life. They focus on connecting warriors with resources and helping them find affordable healthcare and job opportunities.

Patriot Rovers aids soldiers who have suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury during their service. They provide support through group meetings and psychiatric service dogs.

Besides donating to these organizations, A Hero’s 5K also has direct contact with several Gold Star families in Greenville. These are families who have lost an immediate family member in military service.

“The reaction to the event is simply overwhelming gratitude that the community still remembers their sacrifice,” said Paul Howell, the race director.

The volunteers who coordinate this event are dedicated to honoring fallen soldiers and raising awareness for those who currently serve. The event’s planners come from varied backgrounds and pool their experiences to develop the event.

“We really have a diverse core team, and most were at the planning table for the first race, second, third and now the fourth,” Howell said.

Alongside them, approximately 30 more volunteers come to set up and tear down the event, as well as man aid stations.

This race is the only one in Upstate South Carolina that is dedicated to honoring and raising support for veterans. “A Hero’s 5K isn’t just another 5K race that I run. It has purpose and meaning that you don’t find in the typical races. This run is exciting, and I’m pleased to honor our military through every step,” one of last year’s participants said.

“Through the loss of our heroes, something lasting and meaningful arises — the aid for their brothers and sisters in arms still here. It’s a mirror of the Resurrection and turning death into life,” Howell said.

The opening ceremonies for the race will begin at 8:30 a.m., followed by the start of the race at 8:50 a.m. Around 10 a.m. when all participants have finished, the closing ceremonies and awards will be held. Awards will be given to the top three male and female veteran racers as well as to the top male and female finishers in all various age categories.

For all those interested in participating in this race and supporting Greenville veterans, the registration fee is $30 if you register the day of the race between 7 and 8:15 a.m. in the Timmons Arena at Furman University.

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A Hero’s 5K Race to honor, support Greenville veterans