Great Strides Surpasses Half-Million Mark

Alumni Hero
 By: Megan Johnson
On what became a sunny Saturday morning, March 31, a record number of participants gathered at Lee University to celebrate the university’s 12th annual Great Strides event. This year, the 12-year total for Lee’s Great Strides surpassed the $500,000 mark, bringing the all-time total to more than $541,000 raised for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The preliminary amount raised for this year alone, as of the walk on Saturday, was $59,000.

All donations for Lee University Great Strides go toward the CF Foundation’s research and care programs to help find a cure for cystic fibrosis.

“The huge crowd and energetic participation was a wonderful source of support and encouragement to the many families and individuals who are directly affected by cystic fibrosis,” said Vanessa Hammond, CF parent and co-chair of Great Strides.

This year’s Great Strides included the 10th annual 65 Roses 5K, with 825 runners registered for race and the 12th annual Great Strides walk, bringing out over 275 walkers on 26 teams.

Winners for 65 Roses 5K were Caleb Morgan, leading the men with a time of 16:06 and Maggie Opelt, first to cross the line for women with a time of 18:49.

The road race was directed by Dr. Bill Estes, department chair in the Helen DeVos College of Education.

“This year was a big step up in everything, from money raised, to number of runners and walkers, to community and corporate sponsor involvement,” Estes said. “If you consistently put on a quality event, you gain a lot of traction in a community. I think this year we saw these pieces come together.”

Run and walk sponsors for Great Strides include Garden Plaza/Life Care Center of Cleveland; Ralph Buckner Funeral Home; Ed Jacobs & Associates; Easy Auto; First Tennessee Bank; Bank of Cleveland; Tri-Con, Inc.; People for Care & Learning; Caldwell Paving & Grading, LLC; Crawford's Pharmacy; SouthEast Bank & Trust; Brown Stove Works, Inc.; SkyRidge Medical Center; Southern Heritage Bank; and Paul and Darlia Conn.

Media sponsors include Cleveland Daily Banner and Mix 104.1 FM. Community sponsors include Ken & Brian Beard, Center for Cosmetic Dentistry; Cleveland Utilities; Hardee’s; Don Ledford Auto Park of Athens, Tenn.; Logan - Thompson Law Firm; Mars Chocolate; Regions Bank; Restoration Bible Church; Scenic City CrossFit; Tennessee Valley Urology Center; Jim and Sue Sharp; and Dale and Brenda Hughes.

In-kind sponsors include Panera Bread, C.G. Roxane (Crystal Geyser Water), Mars Chocolate, Lookout Mountain Tomato & Banana Co., and Merck.

The Great Strides Steering Committee would also like to thank Chattanooga Track Club, Cleveland Police Department, and Bradley Co. EMS for event support.