To check out the background on this amazing event, head to: https://customcanineunlimited.com/a-heros-5k-the-beginning/
“A Hero’s 5k” is now eleven years old. They have had 9 annual 5k’s, with the 10th being held on Saturday, March 20th in Greer, South Carolina. It should have been their 11th event, but COVID precautions prevented them from having their annual run in 2020.
We were lucky enough to sit down with the Event Director, Doug Smith, and he told us more about the background and future of “A Hero’s 5k”.
Doug Smith met the mother of Geoffrey Whitsitt, Ms. Debby Whitsitt, while he was working at a Veteran owned brewery, 13 Stripes. 13 Stripes wanted to honor Geoffrey by putting his picture on their beer, “Fallen Hero”. The beer company aimed to honor a fallen local Veteran. Through this initiative, Doug and Debby met, and Debby knew she had to get Doug involved with “A Hero’s 5k”. Doug became the Event Director in 2020.
Doug said his plans for the annual event are to help strengthen the Veteran community, and to let people in the community know that no matter what, they are not alone and there is help out there. “A Hero’s 5k” strives to bring the community together and to put a spotlight on Veteran owned businesses.
As we mentioned in our previous article, “A Hero’s 5k” gives 100% of the proceeds of their event back to the Veteran community, and everyone in various positions with the organization are all volunteers. “A Hero’s 5k” first donated to Upstate Warrior Solution, which is a non-profit organization that provides help to Veterans and their families. Upstate Warrior Solutions cites “If you are an Upstate warrior or family member, we want to connect with you and help you thrive in our community. Whatever your current need may be – employment, navigating VA benefits, or simply meeting other warriors and military families in the Upstate – we want to support you. Our work is built on face-to-face outreach and case coordination. Our warrior advocates will help assess your current areas of need, connect you to our network of community resources, and help you generate goals and actionable steps towards your next mission in life.” To learn more about Upstate Warrior Solutions, head to: https://upstatewarriorsolution.org/about-2/
Debby Whitsitt tells us that “A Hero’s 5k” was instrumental in the growth of operations for Upstate Warrior Solution. She tells us that through “A Hero’s 5k” initiatives, they were able to gain office space and therefore continue to grow and serve the Veteran community.
For “A Hero’s 5k” 10th annual race, it’s incredibly important to those at the organization to be transparent with donors and show them exactly where their donations go.
This year, “A Hero’s 5k” decided to benefit an equestrian therapy organization that benefits Veterans called “Guiding Reins”. Debby Whitsitt tells us that the work they do is just so impactful for Veterans and that she is proud to team up with Guiding Reins to help give back and provide support to more Veterans. To check out Guiding Reins, head to: https://guidingreins.org/
Another way “A Hero’s 5k” has changed this year is their involvement with Custom Canine Unlimited. Custom Canine Unlimited Custom Canine Unlimited is training and helping “A Hero’s 5k” donate a K9 to a Veteran in need.
2021 is a big year for “A Hero’s 5k”, not only for the organizations benefitting from the event, but “A Hero’s 5k” has even launched a vendor booth area and a benefit concert! Guests get to enjoy honoring Geoffrey Whitsitt and other fallen Veterans in an annual 5k race and get more exposure to other Veteran owned businesses, as well as being able to attend a fantastic benefit concert. At the concert, the trained K9 from Custom Canine Unlimited will be presented to the Veteran and “A Hero’s 5k” will host free vendor booths for Veteran businesses.
Showing where donor’s donations go is especially important to “A Hero’s 5k”. Doug tells us, “You always see charities donating to organizations, but you never see anything tangible, just a check handed over to an organization… [Donors] will be seeing a dog given to a veteran and see a life change instantly… I want people to see the impact were making, not just through money, but through an actual Veteran’s life.”
“A Hero’s 5k” would like to expand its reach to different states, and even different regions, to honor those who have lost their lives fighting for our freedom.
Doug tells us that “A Hero’s 5k” has national dreams. They would like to expand to different states and regions to help honor other local fallen Veterans. Doug tells us, “We want to honor more fallen soldiers; we want other people to feel the love that Debby Whitsitt has felt…Our goal is to expand to two races in South Carolina next year, and if that works out, we’d like to expand and go where we can.” Doug expands upon their purpose, “our goal is to help smaller organizations that people might not know about and to give people knowledge about them and let them know that there is help out there that they might not have realized.”
“Custom Canine Unlimited is not only helping Veterans through training, but also giving them a life skill that not all individuals have; being a k9 handler is special and to take that out into the real world is pretty huge.”
To register for the 5k, head to: https://aheros5k.com/#info and sign up today!
And stay tuned to see our K9 and Veteran get teamed up!