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There are heroes among us

I know a lot of superheroes. They don’t necessarily wear capes, or carry shields. They don’t have superhuman strength, X-ray vision or the ability to read minds. On the surface, I guess you could say they just look like ordinary mortals.

But, make no mistake; they are heroes. They rise early to prepare hungry runners pancake breakfasts, play games with kids, cheer everyone across the finish line, leave words of encouragement in a social media post.

There were a lot of heroes in downtown Greenville on Saturday for the “My Cancer Hero” event, and the thing about it is, most don’t even realize they are someone’s hero.

Well, they are mine.  Some are young, and others old enough to be my parents. But heroes, you see, come in all shapes, sizes, colors and ages.

Abbie Gardner Ballew and I go back to her high school days. She was one of my French students, and she was a great kid, as were her two brothers, Caleb and Josh, who were also my students. They all grew up to be great adults who give so much back to their community in a variety of ways. All returned to Butler County to practice their professions: Caleb, optometry, Josh, veterinary science and Abbie, teaching, before taking over their late dad’s insurance agency. Let me be very grammatically improper for a moment and say, Mother Mollie—y’all done good.

Caleb ran in Saturday’s race, along with his daughter, Nattie. Nattie’s mom, Sarah Ellen, who has participated in past 5ks, is also my former student, as is Dr. Brandon Slagley, my GP. Bless Brandon, he calls me by my first name and thus does not make me feel so ancient. Brandon also ran, as did his daughter, Kate, who was the female winner in her age division. Another former student (yes, it was not unlike a class reunion), Leah Skipper, was top female in her group and I believe one of her offspring earned the medal for his division.

There were other former students there, including Anna Barganier Myrick, who is a fabulous fitness guru these days, and Jami Barlow Sikes, who so ably represents the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in area schools and is so, so happy to be back in Butler County and we are happy to have the Sikes family here, too. If I have missed any of my former students who participated, just remember—I now have white-haired moments.

Ron Pierce jokes that he wins his age division every year because he’s outlived his competitors. Well, Mr. Ron, I just hope I can run a 5k if and when I hit 82. You sir, are an inspiration—and a hero.

To all those who ran and walked Saturday, you are heroes. You didn’t participate just to win a medal and get a free breakfast. You ran for a higher purpose—to help your fellow human beings who are or will battle cancer. Please know that every ounce of sweat expended, every sore muscle and weary foot, was worth it. You made a difference, and it doesn’t matter whether you came in first, last or the middle of the pack. You are a winner.

I have a new heroine. A little girl who, while running in the children’s Fun Run, turned back to look for someone who might need some help. No, it wasn’t a little brother or sister.

Haylee Cawley took her younger friend Sawyer Cook’s hand in her own and together they crossed the finish line. She could have crossed it much earlier. Clearly, she had more important things to do.

Good on you, Haylee.

Congrats to Abbie for another successful event and to all those, tall and small, who played a part. Hail, you conquering heroes. See you next year!