Most road races follow a simple design.
Runners line up at a starting line, and someone fires a pistol or yells ‘Go!’ Participants run, typically keeping in mind a simple objective: to arrive at the finish line – ahead of other runners, ahead of previous times, ahead of expectations.
Seldom, if ever, is the goal of a race so tangibly demonstrated halfway through as it was at Saturday’s fourth annual Super Cooper’s Rockin’ Run 5K and Family Fun Run.
While race participants may have been aching for a view of the finish line at the end of a 3.1-mile course through Southern Village neighborhoods, the true meaning of the race was on display along the route. Thanks to fundraising from the race and other smaller events, the Super Cooper Little Red Wagon Foundation opened Super Re-Cooperation House, a two-bedroom Southern Village townhouse, in August as temporary accommodations for families receiving medical treatment at UNC Hospitals.
“That’s the exciting part,” race director Darryl Gross said. “It’s in the neighborhood, and the runners all see it.”
“It’s awesome,” said Elise Herman, mother of cancer patient Cooper Herman for whom the race, House, and foundation are named. “There are two places in Durham where we bought into the Ronald McDonald House and where there are now apartments for those with brain tumors. This one is the only one in Chapel Hill right now.”
Event chairwoman Jennifer Thompson said the house has already had an incredibly positive influence.
“We’ve had two families already stay in it,” Thompson said, “and for me, seeing their faces as they saw the beautiful townhouse and then seeing the tears that fell when they left because they were just so thankful…that makes all of this so (meaningful).”
Getting a passing view of the Super Re-Cooperation House at breakneck speed was overall winner Andreas Maetzel, who said he was used to the race course’s hilly terrain.
“I train here all the time,” he said. “I’ve never run this course, but it’s my neighborhood.”
Finishing first among women runners was Georgia Alexander.
“It’s pretty hilly,” Alexander said. “They were pretty bad, and I ran Boston (Marathon) twice.”
The Super Cooper event Saturday afternoon included the 5K, a Family Fun Relay, and Festival, with emcee Eric Montross and live music by the Will McBride Group, a giant inflatable slide, a surf simulator, live auction, food trucks, and a mobile game unit. The racing began with a 1.6-mile kids’ bike ride, followed by the 5K.
Proceeds will help fund the Super Cooper’s Little Red Wagon Foundation mission of supporting families fighting childhood brain cancer. The foundation was founded in 2009 by Elise and Justin Herman, who were inspired and moved by families they met while their son Cooper, now 6, has been battling brain and spinal cancer, according to the foundation website ( supercooperswagon.org).
“They just saw how wonderful this local community was to them when Cooper got sick,” Thompson said, “but they see other families who didn’t have that same support.”
Since its first fundraising event in 2010, the foundation has raised $150,000, accoring to the website.
“Our event sponsors cover the expenses for this event every year,” Thompson said, “so every dollar we actually raise goes right to the house.”
She is especially proud that, while the race hasn’t grown huge, it’s grown friendlier.
“It’s really like a family reunion,” she said. “It even brings in family and friends from out-of-state that care about this.”
“Logistically and organizationally, everyone now knows what’s going on and everyone’s coming out,” Gross said. “It’s a great crowd, and today we even had SkipSations (jump rope team) here performing. Everybody knows everybody out here.”
Volunteer coordinator Bethany Paine said a lot of the success comes from that sense of community ownership and volunteerism.
“It’s just amazing,” Paine said. “I get a lot of people from the YMCA Leadership group, and also from the Southern Village families and their kids – they all bond here every year.”
The foundation’s 2013 fundraising goal is $75,000 toward a 2018 goal of $750,000.
With no finish line in sight, perhaps the miracles that occur in the long run aren’t at the end of the race line after all, but the ones right in front of us all along the way.
“That’s really point to all of this,” Herman said. “And we hope there are many houses to come, because there are so many families, we can’t begin to serve them all.”