BOONE, N.C. — Monsters, superheroes and skeletons galore tested their endurance and supported the work of Parent Family Support Network-High Country (FSN-HC) Saturday in the 2018 Spooky Duke Race and Costume Contest at Appalachian State University.
A total of 374 racers and 75 volunteers participated in the eighth annual Halloween-themed event, raising awareness and over $11,000 in funds for the work of Appalachian’s Parent to Parent Family Support Network-High Country (FSN-HC), which supports local families who have children with special needs.
An additional $10,000 in matched funds was awarded to Parent to Parent FSN-HC director Kaaren Hayes via a grant from The Health Foundation Inc., bringing the total amount of funds raised through the event to over $21,000.
Hayes said, “I love Spooky Duke! It brings families, students, staff, faculty and the wider community all together to have fun, raises essential funds for Parent to Parent FSN-HC, and most importantly, adds strength and commitment to a vision of a world where everyone is valued and included.”
The event, named in honor of Dr. Charles R. Duke, former dean of Appalachian’s Reich College of Education (RCOE), is a certified 5K and 10K race and features a free costume march and contest in which children, adults and pets share in the fun.
Members of Appalachian Educators Club provided free child care and children’s activities at the event — including face painting, sidewalk chalk, bubbles and games of cornhole — and greeted participants at the finish line with cheers, high-fives and water bottles.
Following the race, participants took part in the costume march. Prizes were awarded for costumes and for the top three male and female runners in both the 5K and 10K.
The Parent to Parent FSN-HC program, which is housed in the RCOE, provides free support, caring connections, information and hope to High Country families who have a premature baby; a child with a disability, an emotional or behavioral challenge, a mental illness and/or a chronic health condition; and/or to families who are grieving the death of a child. The program serves Alleghany, Ashe, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey counties.
A ‘spooktacular’ family affair
Parent to Parent FSN-HC exists to serve families, and for many, Spooky Duke is a family affair.
Taylor Dale ’18, an Appalachian reading education master’s candidate, participated in the Spooky Duke race alongside her parents, Jay and Jennifer Dale, who traveled from Swannanoa to run the race. Dressed as a family of vampires, they ran the course and crossed the finish line together.
Others, like Leslie Roberts, ran with their work families. Roberts, employee wellness manager at Appalachian Regional Healthcare, recruited a group of five pumpkin-clad colleagues to join in the fun.
“I love the atmosphere. It’s fun and celebratory,” she said.
In addition, a number of Appalachian’s students, faculty and staff participated — many from the RCOE, including students from the college’s Students with Diverse Abilities (SDAP) program, who dressed as characters from the movie “Elf.”
Families served by Parent to Parent FSN-HC were also in attendance.
Rich Lang participated for the third year and was joined by his daughter, Erin Lang. Erin Lang has special needs, and the Lang family has benefited from their association with Parent to Parent FSN-HC since their move to Boone two years ago.
“Parent to Parent is so important,” Rich Lang said. “They help families meet and provide community support.”
Because of the support the Lang family has received and the families they met, Rich Lang’s wife, Candice Lang, is working to establish a community for adults with special needs in Boone.
Volunteer Elizabeth Kerley ’10 ’15 and Norma Bouchard, a Parent to Parent FSN-HC employee and beneficiary, echoed Rich Lang’s sentiment.
Kerley said, “Parent to Parent gives families hope and knowledge that they are not alone.”
Kerley was twice employed as a Parent to Parent FSN-HC intern during her time as an Appalachian student — once in 2010 as an undergraduate and again in 2013–14 as a graduate student. She now works at AppHealthCare as a health promotion program manager but makes time each year to volunteer at Spooky Duke and has done so since 2011.
Bouchard works for Parent to Parent FSN-HC as an outreach coordinator for Alleghany, Ashe and Wilkes counties. She is also the mother of a special needs child — her son, Caleb Bouchard.
Caleb Bouchard and his sister, Holly Bouchard, joined their mother at the Spooky Duke event. The family, who moved from New Hampshire to Boone in 2005, connected with Hayes and Parent to Parent FSN-HC ahead of the move.
Norma Bouchard said, “Parent to Parent FSN-HC has never steered me wrong and continues to make our journey through life so much easier.”
Norma Bouchard explained that because Parent to Parent is a national organization, she was aware of its services and contacted the local chapter for help. Parent to Parent FSN-HC connected her with the resources she needed and later recruited her as an employee.
Norma Bouchard added that events like Spooky Duke are about the kids, saying, “It’s great to see them supported.”
A Spooky Duke Hero
Although all of the families served by Parent to Parent FSN-HC are heroes, one child in particular — Melia Haury from Sugar Grove — was named the official Spooky Duke Hero of 2018.
Haury, age 12, was born with half a heart, which is also positioned backward. She underwent three open-heart surgeries before her third birthday and as she has gotten older, her heart function has steadily decreased. She has been on the transplant list for a new heart since Aug. 16.
Haury’s family was introduced to Parent to Parent FSN-HC soon after her birth. Her mother, Karen Haury, said she was thankful to have met Hayes and to learn about the many ways Parent to Parent FSN-HC helps families like hers.
Karen Haury said, “After having a sick baby, I didn’t know what to do or where to turn. Being a part of Parent to Parent has been such a blessing.”
Spooky Duke participants were encouraged to sign up to “run” for Melia Haury. Volunteer Darbie Segraves, an Appalachian junior majoring in elementary education from Jefferson, carried a poster sharing Melia Haury’s photo and story during the Spooky Duke event, encouraging those in attendance to write notes of support that were delivered to Melia Haury.
Melia Haury’s father, Myk Haury, had planned to run the 5K; however, the family learned that Melia Haury would be receiving a new heart on Oct. 25 — days before the event.
Because of its fundraising efforts and events like Spooky Duke, Parent to Parent FSN-HC was able to provide financial assistance to the Haury family as they lived at the Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte and prepared for Meila Haury’s transplant.
Karen Haury said, for her family, Parent to Parent FSN-HC and everyone who participated in Spooky Duke are not just heroes, but superheroes.
About Parent to Parent Family Support Network-High Country
Parent to Parent Family Support Network-High Country (FSN-HC) provides free support, caring connections, information and hope to families who have a premature baby, a child with a disability, an emotional or behavioral challenge, a mental illness or a chronic health condition, and to families who are grieving the death of a child. The program serves seven counties in Western North Carolina: Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey. Parent to Parent FSN-HC provides information and tools to help families see the possibilities for their children and turn that potential into reality. Learn more at https://parent2parent.appstate.edu.
About the Reich College of Education
Appalachian offers one of the largest undergraduate teacher preparation programs in North Carolina, graduating about 500 teachers a year. The Reich College of Education enrolls approximately 2,400 students in its bachelor's, master's, education specialist and doctoral degree programs. With so many teacher education graduates working in the state, there is at least one RCOE graduate teaching in every county in North Carolina. Learn more at https://rcoe.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
Appalachian State University, in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The transformational Appalachian experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and embrace diversity and difference. As one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System, Appalachian enrolls more than 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.