The 2013 Sherry’s Run will be dedicated to the memory of David Ray Hunter – described by organizers as a remarkable man who achieved more in his short life than others can only dream about. His determined spirit and complete selflessness continues to inspire others who knew him or hear his touching story.
“David was a gift from God.” Those were the proud words of a dedicated and loving father. Hunter was not handed an easy life early on, however, he chose to keep his head up and partake in activities that people his own age were doing. His blindness did not stop him from having a memorable life that made a huge impact on many different people.
Hunter was adopted Oct. 5, 1965 when he was just 7 months old. He progressed normally as a young boy until he hit age 4. His father, Raymond, had noticed Hunter was having some vision trouble. When he took him to Vanderbilt University Medical Center and doctors ran various tests, it was discovered Hunter had an optical nerve dying in his left eye. The diagnosis was drusen of the optic disc — one of the rarest optical deficiencies in the world. The doctors said only one person had reportedly gone completely blind after being diagnosed. Just a short time later at age 10, Hunter became the second.
Even with the handicap, Hunter was determined to have a normal life. He never considered his visual impairment as a reason not to do something he wanted to do. He grew up going to school, getting a job teaching people how to skate at an ice skating rink, going to church and even getting an ID. Raymond even bought him a talking computer that assisted him with his everyday tasks, and he was able to keep up with Raymond’s household’s records.
After Hunter’s mother passed away when he was 17, he began learning to do things such as cook and clean the house.
“David loved to help me around the house—he could do anything a normal seeing person could do if you just gave him a chance,” said his father.
When Raymond had knee surgery and could not walk well, Hunter was right there to help. Even his aunt, who lived down the road, would call upon Hunter to help her with chores around the house.
“David had such a gentle spirit; he just wanted to help people,” she said.
At a young age, Hunter had memorized several different passages from the Bible. There was even one instance where Hunter reminded his father that he had missed an exit on the interstate.
“Early on, I noticed that David had an incredible memory,” Raymond said.
Perhaps most remarkably, when Hunter was older and went off to college, he had his whole classroom route at Carson-Newman memorized after Raymond showed him the first time.
While studying at Christian schools and earning various degrees to prepare him to be a minister, Hunter really wanted to go on a class trip to the Holy Land. Walking where his Savior walked was thrilling for David; he had a tremendous faith and loved preaching God’s Word.
“David had a great love for traveling,” Raymond said. “I even let him go on many trips alone.”
He went on mission trips, went snowboarding and repelling and even explored Europe.
“I never told him he couldn’t,” Raymond said.
Hunter earned two bachelor’s degrees and four master’s degrees, traveling extensively and serving others. Things that seemed out of reach for Hunter, he mastered.
One night, when Hunter returned home from a snowboarding trip, he told Raymond he was going to take a shower. After a few minutes, Raymond heard a noise which seemed to be out of the ordinary. As he knocked on the bathroom door, he gained no response. After opening the door he found Hunter lying on the floor, coughing up blood. Later they would find out that a hemorrhage caused him to collapse. Raymond immediately rushed him to the hospital. After being transferred to Vanderbilt and undergoing tests, the doctors delivered their grim diagnosis – stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
The doctors told Hunter he may only have a month to live. What was his response?
“I think I will live a little bit longer,” he said.
That he did. After battling five months and at which point he weighed a mere 135 pounds, Hunter knew it was time to go home. He called in his pastor and made final arrangements with Raymond. At 45, Hunter left this world and went on to something much greater. He was now receiving his reward in heaven.
“David was such a blessing to everyone he met—his determination just inspired them,” Raymond said. “A lot of people with his condition give up. He didn’t.”
Just as Hunter blessed others while living, his life continues to have a positive impact today. Never imagining that he would outlive his son, Raymond had been saving money for several years so his son would have all that he needed after Raymond was gone.
Raymond decided that he wanted to use those funds to continue his son’s work by donating to a number of ministries that assist and encourage others or help spread the gospel.
One of the local beneficiaries is Sherry’ Run.
“Sherry’s Run is deeply appreciative to Raymond Hunter for the donations that he has made in David’s memory,” said Tiffy Clemons, Sherry’s Run executive board member, “which allows us the opportunity to serve our neighbors who are fighting cancer.”
Sherry’s Run remembers Hunter’s life; honoring a man who continues to inspire us all by his determined spirit, positive attitude and never-ending faith; teaching by example to live and walk by faith, not by sight, Clemons said.
To learn more about Sherry’s Run, call 615-925-2592. To refer someone who might qualify for assistance, call 615-925-9932 or visit sherrysrun.org.
The 10th annual Sherry’s Run is scheduled for Sept. 14 at 8 a.m. in Lebanon, beside the main office of Wilson Bank & Trust at 623 West Main St. Registration is open at sherrysrun.org.