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Race offers chance to honor donors and promote transplant awareness – The Advocate Messenger:

Posted: Saturday, August 23, 2014 1:20 pm

By LARRY VAUGHT | 0 comments

JUNCTION CITY — When Max Hester ran in the Dash for Life 5K here last year, his cousin — Luke Hester Reaves of Alabama — has just turned 1 year old. Not long after that, his family found out he had a rare heart defect and would need a heart transplant to survive.

“His mother is a nurse, so after he got sick they went to the hospital at Vanderbilt and just awaited a transplant match hopefully,” said Hester, the former pastor at Stanford Baptist Church. “We did not know if there would be a donor, but there was.”

So this year in the race that raises awareness for organ donations, Hester proudly had his 2-year-old cousin’s picture on the back of a T-shirt he wore during the race. It showed Luke Reaves at the ocean at Gulf Shores, Ala., with family members.

Hester shared his story of inspiration before the start of the annual event put on by Jean Crawford Griffin, an organ transplant recipient and survivor who does all she can to promote the “heroes” who donate organs so others can live.

“I put his picture on my back so everyone that passed me would see it going by, and also to show that he had my back just like I had his back,” Hester said. “I am a runner any way, but this is such a special race now to me and such a great cause. I was running for Luke, but also to thank the donor family that we do not even know.”

Stephanie Phelps of Somerset came to honor the memory of Austin Lane Mincey, a Casey County High School student who died in June from injuries suffered in a motocross accident. Griffin called Mincey and his family “heroes” for donating his organs to help others. She knows the Mincey family and “kind of” knows Griffin and the work she does.

“I was going to do this race last year, but I had already entered another run that turned out to be on the same day,” she said. “But I think honoring the memory of Austin brought a lot of people here today that might not normally have been here.”

Maybe that’s what inspired Phelps, 41, to run a personal-best time of 24 minutes, 51 seconds over the 3.1-mile course on a muggy morning. Her time might have been even better if she had not had to stop once to tie a shoe and another time to drink a cup of water and pour another one over her head.

“I felt like my shoe was going to fall off, so I had to stop,” she said.

She’s an avid runner and started running half-marathons (13.1) miles at age 40 to show herself she could do it. Now she hopes to finish the 19.6-mile BrickHouse Betweenathon Oct. 26 in Stanford.

“I have toyed with the idea of doing a marathon (26.2 miles), so this would give me a better idea of what that would be like,” she said.

She did most of her training for her first half-marathon on a treadmill early in the morning before work.

“We live in the middle of nowhere with all kinds of animals, including bears. But I found out you can’t train on a treadmill for a mini-marathon. Now I run in the afternoons,” she said.

She will definitely run Nov. 8 in the “Grip It and Rip It” 5K in Somerset in Mincey’s memory.

“I hope a lot of other people will, too. So many people knew him and his family. It should be a special event for a special young man,” she said.

Danville’s Russell Woods once again enjoyed being able to test himself in what he estimates was his 15th race this year. He finished in 21:30, one of the top times in the event, but he was hoping to be even faster.

“Many of my races have been faster. I have been running five days a week and training some over at Shakertown, which has helped a lot,” Woods said. “I just want to continue to gradually improve my times and I like competing with really good runners and seeing how I can do against them.”

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