Run Photo

Jennifer Holland picks up a T-shirt for the 17th Annual Sherry’s Run 5K Run/Walk, which was held virtually amid COVID-19, from registration tent volunteer Ashlee Chance on Friday.

COVID-19 may have stopped the world in its tracks, but it hasn’t stop cancer. Fortunately for hundreds of local families, it hasn’t stop Sherry’s Run either.

The 17th Annual Sherry’s Run 5K Run/Walk went virtual this year and raised more than $185,000 to provide assistance for families battling cancer. More than 1,300 people representing 10 states and Washington, D.C. participated.

“We really didn’t know how this year was going to go, so we’ve been very blessed,” Sherry’s Run Marketing Director Katie Henson said. “God has a way of providing, and I feel like it went well. People celebrated in their own ways at the parks, or had smaller get-togethers in their churches. I had someone tag us on Instagram and they were in California walking. We had people out there from one end of the country to the other celebrating Sherry’s Run, and it’s a great feeling.”

Participation was down largely because of competitive runners and teams looking to post their times, but there was plenty of engagement from the community.

“We felt like with this being our 17th year and that everybody found out about it being a virtual event, our folks would still register,” Sherry’s Run executive board member and race director Scott Jasper said. “Wilson County has been doubly impacted this year between the tornado and COVID-19, so it’s great that people still realize the importance of fighting cancer.”

Race sponsorships remained on target, with dozens of local businesses contributing to the total alongside participants’ race fees and other donations.

According to Sherry’s Run Patient Assistance Director Alisa Eakes, the organization has provided financial assistance for 107 families in and around Wilson County so far this year. Sherry’s Run also distributes free colon cancer screening tests and offers colonoscopy assistance.

Wilson County residents run each year to further that work, and many of them also help out at the event. Ashlee Chance has been involved with Sherry’s Run as both a participant and volunteer since its inception.

“My parents both passed away from cancer within two years, and I’d started volunteering even before that to be a part of the community and bring help to patients,” she said. “After my parents passed, it took on a whole new meaning.”

Chance said it was a strange feeling to wake up the morning of the 5K and not gather with the other runners. However, she was able to meet with many of them while working the registration table.

“Things have been going very smoothly,” she said of the volunteer experience. “It’s smaller scale than what we’re used to, but not being so busy, you really do get to talk to each of the participants.”

Some of the runners also organized neighborhood get-togethers, like Mallory Maxwell.

“I’m actually helping one of my friends, and we’re doing a team in honor of her mom,” she said. “We’re doing a 2-mile route around Waters Hill, and we’re going to have stuff set up like a bouncy house so the kids have things to do.”

Maxwell has also supported Sherry’s Run from the beginning, and she visited the registration tent on Friday to pick up her event T-shirt early.

“I went to high school with Sherry Whitaker’s sons,” she said. “Sherry is who the event is named for. I didn’t know her personally but I knew her sons, and I always love supporting this event. It’s such a good cause.”

Sherry’s Run has become a cornerstone of the community over the years, and one with a personal significance to participants like Chance and Maxwell that shows through this year’s numbers.

“If you’d have told me back at the beginning that we’d have 1,200 people register online I’d have thought it would be a stretch,” Jasper said. “But even though COVID is a big thing right now cancer hasn’t taken a break, and people know what our organization is about. They still want to help.”

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