Sam Hersom and the overall 1st place finisher Dan Monteau of Gainesville take a moment to celebrate after the Samstrong 5k race.NEWBERRY – Inspiration can motivate people to think, feel, do good or be creative. On Sept. 29, an 11-year-old boy was the inspiration for hundreds of people to come together for a good cause. Sam Hersom has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, an inherited disorder involving muscular weakness that worsens rapidly. He was diagnosed at 18 months of age, and his birthday this past July will be remembered by family and friends as the last time Sam was able to walk by himself. Now he is confined to a wheelchair, and his worsened condition requires a handicap accessible van as well. And now his home needs accessibility improvements, too.
On Sept. 29, Newberry Elementary, with help from Gainesville’s Grace at Fort Clarke United Methodist Church, held the Inaugural Samstrong 5K race with over 200 participants, and a silent auction to help the family. Event proceeds of about $2,000 will go toward the Hersom family, which includes Sam’s 13-year-old brother Cole and 4-year-old sister Kaitlyn.
Past involvement with Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy prompted the idea to hold a fundraiser for muscular dystrophy advocacy in Newberry, said Kris Hersom, Sam’s mother. But family friends at the church, the elementary school, and Oak View Middle School came together and added a slight twist to the original plan: the Hersom family would be the benefactors of the fundraiser.
“They took our concept and ran with it in terms of setting up the 5K run and finding sponsorships,” said Sam’s dad, Matt Hersom. “That’s where we started. Then we finished with over 200 hundred people out there supporting us. It was a whirlwind. A lot of people we know and a lot of people we didn’t know decided that the Samstrong 5K was a worthy thing to do.”
“I drove my power chair in the race,” Sam Hersom said. “And I beat my mom. And I also beat my brother.”
The Hersom family looks forward to making the event an annual one, and enthusiasm for it has already attracted sponsors for next year.
“This was the inaugural event, and you can’t have an inaugural event without a follow up one,” Matt Hersom said.
Audra Pardo, a database clerk at Oak View Middle School, and database manager Kim Barnett and nurse Pauline Eagle at Newberry Elementary School were essential to the success of the fundraiser in their efforts to coordinate donations and set up the race and auction events.
Carissa Clayton at Grace Methodist Church coordinated the silent auction the elementary school hosted, and assisted in the church’s efforts to transfer the funds as aid to the Hersom family.
Gainesville’s TNT Graphics and Newbery’s Bounds Heating and Air, RPM Auto, The Floor Store, and First Choice Immediate Care Center, among others, were integral in the fundraising efforts, Pardo said.
Newberry’s Villagio’s Pizzeria and Hitchcock’s Market were also contributors, along with Gainesville’s Fit2Run who supplied Sam a pair of shoes.
“It was a group effort,” Pardo said. The planning started back in spring break of this year and has created a successful sponsorship, with almost the entire $25 sign-up fee going towards the family’s house renovation fund.”
Although this year’s event is over, anyone wishing to make a donation can do so online by visiting Grace at Fort Clarke’s website, http://www.gracefl.org/, and following the link.
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