Hayward resident organizing marathon to benefit children

Published 1:00 pm Sunday, January 7, 2018

According to a press release, if you like to run or hike, enjoy spring beauty in the Texas hill country and are inclined to help children have a good life, then the April 7 Headwaters of the Frio Marathon/Half-Marathon at Big Springs Ranch for Children near Leakey, Texas, is the event for you. All those elements will come together during a family-friendly weekend with fun, food and purpose. You can take part in the run/hike, attend in support of a friend or team, or volunteer to help host the participants, including manning water stations along the trail, working onsite registration, guiding runners or serving food.

Scheduled the weekend after Easter, the event offers a chance to spend time on one of the most beautiful and historic ranches in all of Texas. For most of the 20th century, the ranch was owned by Oma Bell Perry and her two sisters, all great-grandnieces of Stephen F. Austin, considered by many as the “Father of Texas.” In 1995, after 70 years of cattle and goat ranching, Oma Bell, the last surviving sister, offered the ranch to Gary Priour, founder of Hill Country Youth Ranch, because it was her family’s vision to have their ranch become home to and a place of healing for abused and abandoned children, and she admired what Priour had done at Hill Country Youth Ranch in Ingram, 50 miles away.

Today, Big Springs Ranch for Children is home to children who have been rescued from abuse, abandonment and severe trauma. Big Springs Ranch is a sister campus to Hill Country Youth Ranch in Ingram,Texas, and both embody the same core philosophy of rebuilding trust in traumatized children through love, patience and family-style living. Together, the ranches are home to 110 children at any given time, ages 5 to 18, and both campuses include a village of homes, along with charter school facilities where children can learn in small class settings geared to meet the educational needs of each individual student.

Healing abused children can take many years, starting with providing a safe place to live, an environment where love abounds and restoration can begin one step at a time. Helping children rediscover their innate value and become motivated to reach for the best in themselves is not an easy or straight road. In their short lives, these children have already had to persevere from one day to another through horrific and dangerous circumstances.

It was out of this recognition of the children’s own “marathon” of survival that the idea came to have a challenging marathon/half-marathon trail run/hike on the 7,050-acre Big Springs Ranch.

April isNational Child Abuse Prevention Month, and it seemed an appropriate time to have the event, which will focus on the children and the work of the ministry helping them on their journey toward wholeness.

The full marathon route (26.2 miles) literally covers one end of the Big Springs Ranch to the other, offering access to vistas and historic landmarks. Both the half (13.1 miles) and full marathon courses cover terrain including hills, valleys, ravines, washouts, creek beds with dinosaur tracks, a crossing of the Frio River, an abandoned 1800s-era pioneer farm site, a water cave and more. There will be opportunities to see flora, birds, and other wildlife.

There will be free camping on the ranch, a pit-cooked barbecue on the evening of April 6 for event participants and families, activities for family members on April 7, a post-event party and dinner following the marathon, and an April 8 morning worship service at the Big Springs Ranch chapel, led by Jonah Priour, ranch chaplain.

The marathon/half-marathon will start at 7:15 a.m. April 7. All finishers will receive a finisher’s T-shirt and a custom-made finisher’s medal. Participants must be 18 or older, and can choose either the full or half-marathon and can run or hike as they see fit. The event can be done solo or teams can be formed to compete. There will be an 11-hour time limit to complete the course. The field is limited to the first 150 to register. There is no registration fee, but a minimum fundraising amount has been set for each participant to raise.

The money raised will go directly into the ranches’ children’s fund, which is the all-purpose fund that ensures the provision of the essentials for the children — food, clothing, housing and transportation, plus a variety of life enrichment experiences, including holiday celebrations, weekly allowances, birthdays, recreational activities and educational adventures. With 110 children living in the ranches’ care, expenses never cease. The funds are supplied partially through operational grants, bequests, thrift store sales and endowment income. The rest must come from individual donations and special events like the marathon.

Bryce Gaudian from Hayward, a member of the ranches’ advisory board, is serving as race director. A veteran of 17 marathons and many UltraHikes himself, Gaudian personally hiked 80 miles across Big Springs Ranch for Children during six days in April 2017, planning and charting what he believes is one of the most unique and stunningly beautiful marathon and half-marathon courses imaginable. In four years of association with the ranches he has raised over $350,000 through four Ultrahikes.

“It’s epic; it will be unforgettable,” Gaudian said. “Don’t miss this one.”

Detailed information and registration is available at https://headwaters.greatfeats.com.