Event fundraising

Thousands Gather in Downtown DeLand for ME STRONG Nonprofit’s 5K Event

DELAND — When Katherine McAllister decided to participate in the latest ME STRONG 5K eventit could run the length of two houses.

At the time, that was all McAllister, 60, with stage 4 brain cancer, could do.

“Then she started going deeper and deeper,” said her son, Michael McAllister. “His record before today was 2.4 miles.”

On Saturday morning, with dozens of people cheering her on and her husband, Tim, by her side, McAllister set a new record for herself.

Competitors race towards the finish line of the ME STRONG 5K Finals in downtown DeLand on Saturday, February 5. Since the inaugural race in 2012, approximately 38,000 people have participated in the event which raises funds for cancer patients.

The founders of ME STRONG greeted her at the finish line and put a black and white checkered cape around her shoulders.

“It was really good,” McAllister said of finishing the nonprofit’s 3.1-mile “Victory Lap.”

McAllister, a DeLand resident, was one of nearly 5,000 people who took part in the last ME STRONG 5K. She was also the biggest individual fundraiser this year, raising over $5,000.

Since the inaugural race in 2012, approximately 38,000 people have walked, run or biked the route that begins and ends on Indiana Avenue downtown, and more than $2 million has been raised to support those battling cancer.

“It really is a day of celebration,” said Linda Ryan, the nonprofit’s founding catalyst, in thanking the community.

Dozens of cheers for Katherine McAllister, dressed in a yellow jacket, as she heads to the finish line of the ME STRONG 5K final on Saturday February 5.  McAllister has stage 4 brain cancer.

Dozens of cheers for Katherine McAllister, dressed in a yellow jacket, as she heads to the finish line of the ME STRONG 5K final on Saturday February 5. McAllister has stage 4 brain cancer.

The organization’s founders include Ryan, a multiple cancer survivor, and four of his closest friends – Barbara Underhill, Kim Winters, Kim Martin and Kathy Guyer.

The friends have decided that this year’s race will be their last as they are all in different places in their lives – some are now grandparents – compared to when the ME STRONG movement started.

Some community members have suggested handing the nonprofit over to someone who can make it work, but the founders aren’t sure if what they’ve created will continue without being involved every step of the way. .

Mayor Bob Apgar declared Saturday “ME STRONG” day and encouraged everyone to remember the nonprofit, its founders and their accomplishments on the first Saturday in February for years to come.

“Because they opened every heart in our community through this effort…I have a key to the city for each of them,” Apgar said.

Linda Ryan, the catalyst and one of the founders of the non-profit ME STRONG 5K, addresses the crowd before the start of the "Victory Lap"  Saturday, February 5.

Linda Ryan, the catalyst and one of the founders of the nonprofit ME STRONG 5K, addresses the crowd before the start of “Victory Lap” on Saturday, February 5.

The mayor also presented a key to the city to Jacob of Grom — a DeLand native, Stetson University alumnus and New York Mets pitcher — who was on hand, once again, to wave the checkered flag at the start of the run.

“These ladies are awesome, what they’re going through and what they’ve been through, you just wish them the best,” deGrom said as he drove down the road. “Anytime you can help out and be a part of something special like this is a real honor.”

“Much more than a race”: ME STRONG 5K Founders Plan Their “Victory Lap”

“I’m not sure it struck me that this was the end”: ME STRONG 5K ‘Victory Lap’ to bring thousands to downtown DeLand

emotions abound

The race started at 8 a.m. to the tune of “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins.

Cloudy skies and temperatures in the upper 50s didn’t dampen the cheerful atmosphere.

Some participants ran from start to finish while others ran steadily or walked.

Stretching on the sidelines before the start of the race, Jacksonville resident Joseph Herndon said his goal “is just to not stop.”

Herndon, who grew up in DeLand, was joined by family members, including his cousin’s daughter, Miranda Christian, 15, who has been cancer-free for about a year.

“I’m really excited to do this,” said Christian, who was diagnosed with lymphoma in April 2020.

After learning of his diagnosis, the non-profit organization posted a collage of photos of Christian participating over the years on social media, asking for prayers and positive vibes.

“It’s touching because she ran it two years ago when she was sick and she didn’t know it yet,” said the teenager’s grandmother, Dawn Christian.

She said they were looking forward to seeing her sign and photo displayed, among other things, in an area along the road as part of the “Tribute to those we love”.

The aforementioned tribute area was a new addition to the itinerary.

Not new, but still a hit, were the dozens of designated cheer zones.

“As always, there’s a lot of spirit along the course of the race,” Ryan said.

For those of age who need a little extra spirit, Bee Realty Corp. distributed mimosas outside his downtown office on North Woodland Boulevard.

A little further north of the mimosa station were members of the nonprofit Krewe of Amalee, the organization behind the annual downtown dog parade. They handed out beads in a nod to Mardi Gras, the theme of this year’s parade on February 26.

Kristi Tyrrell, the current captain of Krewe, said it was hard to believe this was the final ME STRONG 5K event.

“It brings tears to my eyes,” Tyrrell said. “I hiked it with friends who are no longer there.”

Participants in the ME STRONG 5K Finals cross the finish line in downtown DeLand on Saturday, February 5.

Participants in the ME STRONG 5K Finals cross the finish line in downtown DeLand on Saturday, February 5.

The final finish line

The support for the participants never waned and the founders of the association took to the stage towards the end to cheer everyone on as they ran, walked or danced to the finish line.

“I love this sea of ​​green,” Kim Winters said, referring to this year’s official tee.

19-year-old Daytona Beach resident Sebastian Hernandez placed first overall, finishing the 5k in 16 minutes and 2 seconds.

Emma Grace Hurley, 24, of Brookhaven, Georgia, placed second, finishing the race in 16 minutes and 7 seconds.

Katherine McAllister finished in less than two hours.

“She’s unstoppable,” her son Michael McAllister said as his eyes filled with tears. “She is an inspiration.”

This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: ME STRONG Hosts Last 5K at DeLand for Cancer Patients and Supporters