Umpqua Strong 9 26 21
Lucero Alcaraz. Treven Anspach. Rebecka Ann Carnes. Quinn Glenn Cooper. Kim Saltmarsh Dietz. Lucas Eibel. Jason Dale Johnson. Lawrence Levine. Sarena Dawn Moore.
The “Umpqua Nine” as they are known — the nine Umpqua Community College students who were killed when a gunman opened fire on a classroom within the former Snyder Hall on Oct. 1, 2015 — were remembered Saturday during a fundraising run/walk held at Wildlife Safari in Winston.
The Umpqua Strong event consisted of a 9K/5K fundraising run and walk. This year’s event was sponsored by Northwest Community Credit Union. Umpqua Strong is a nonprofit organization founded after the UCC shooting to give those affected an opportunity to express determination, unity and hope.
Following the run and walk, there were children’s events presented by The Family Development Center. Those consisted of a short run by the flamingos for children ages 4-7, and a longer run around a pond for children ages 8-11.
Lynn McAllister, secretary and treasurer of the Umpqua Strong board, said 173 people had registered for the event. Of those, a little more than 100 took part in the 5K run, she said.
There were 14 children who registered for the event and several people in their 70s, including one 77-year-old and a 76-year-old. Most people came from Oregon, but there were also participants from other states including Washington and California, McAllister said.
There was also a group of runners from Anchorage, Alaska who participated virtually, she said. People who participate virtually run the course then post their times online, she said.
“We’ve done this virtually every year to encourage people to participate,” she said.
McAllister said organizers were determined to hold the event despite a recent increase in new cases of COVID-19.
“We weren’t going to cancel this,” she said. “There’s no reason to, it’s outside.”
The run was a bit surreal, considering the venue.
There were camels grazing in the grass and an ostrich milling around just off the finish line. Racers cooled down in a room that contained a number of stuffed animals including Greater Kudu, Wildebeest, Zebra and Hartebeest heads mounted on the walls, along with a lion attacking a Nyala.
The morning moon added to the unique atmosphere.
Phil Wyatt ran the 5K in 34:44, pushing his 2-year-old son Sam in a stroller.
“The hill, boy that did me in,” he said of the run. “I ran everything but the hill. It was rough.
Wyatt said the race holds special meaning for him because of the cause behind it. He said he knows a number of people, including police officers and first responders, who were affected by the shootings, and he wanted to honor them and those who lost their lives.
“There’s definitely more motivation,’ he said. “Especially now, we’re a little divided, and events like this help unify us.”
Fred Burson, 73, finished the 5K in 40:41, a time he said he was proud of. Burson said in addition to honoring the Umpqua Nine, he wanted to show his family and others that age does not have to be a barrier to fitness.
“I wanted to support the community, that’s the main reason I ran. And then to push myself,” Burson said. “I’m proud, I didn’t think I’d make it in that quick. I wanted to let people know that just because I’m 73 doesn’t mean I can’t still do things like this.”
Tanya Stafford came up from Medford and ran the 5K with her friend, Xavier Hudson. They finished in about 32 minutes.
Stafford said she ran the very first Umpqua Strong event and on Saturday wore the plastic wrist band from that race as a way to honor those who lost their lives.
“That day really affected me,” she said of the shootings, and subsequent run. “It hit hard and I felt lucky to be able to do what I love.”
Following that first run Stafford began to enter more runs, and ran her first marathon in Los Angeles in March 2020. Her time was 5 hours and 25 minutes.
“It’s slow, but I finished,” Stafford said.
Over the first five years of the event, nearly $138,000 has been raised for community organizations and scholarships. About $100,000 of that total was raised in the first two years of the run/walk.
McAllister said organizers were still tallying the amount raised Saturday, but that it looked like the total would come in between $11,000 and $16,000. To learn more about Umpqua Strong or to donate to the organization, call 541-972-3251, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.