When mom’s health slips, local men make sure Matthew’s memorial 5K continues
For the past five years, on the Saturday before Veterans Day, Matthew England’s mother Pamela Hengen has hosted a 5K run/walk to raise money for a scholarship fund set up in memory of her son, who lost his life at the age of 22 when an insurgent’s homemade bomb blew up his Army vehicle on June 8, 2011, while he was serving with the Army in Irag. In October, when Pam announced that, due to health problems, she wouldn’t be able to organize and host the event this year, a small group of volunteers led by Doug Hawkins, David Murphy and Billy Pippin made sure the race would go on.
“Matthew was one of our own,” Hawkins said. “His mom is too. It was the right thing to do.”
Around 40 runners and walkers showed up in the bitter cold on the morning of Saturday, Dec. 8. Pam Hengen, who is recovering from surgery, was able to be there, along with her husband Joe. Lutie teacher Lois Honeycutt, who knew Matthew well and was one of his teachers, spoke to the runners before the race. “Matthew was a good man,” she said. “And he would be very proud of each of you.”
In addition to the runners and walkers competing locally, many others participated virtually in cities and towns across the nation. “Thanks to everybody locally and around the country who participated,” said Murphy. “Most of all, thanks to Pamela Hengen for allowing us to help honor her son.”
Gracyn Blackburn sang the National Anthem as the flag flew in the bitter wind above the courthouse before runners toed the starting line. In what seemed like no time at all, 15-year-old Silas Bouchard was crossing the finish line, winning first place overall with his time of 20.29. He was followed by 14-year-old Rylee Patterson of Mountain Home, Arkansas, who came in second and won first place overall female with her time of 22.21. Robert Clark, 16, of Gainesville, was third and won first place in the 15-19 year-old male division with his time of 23.25.
Other first-place division winners were Isabelle Workman, Elena Robles and Angel Hill (tie), Melissa Bassham, Melissa Hayes, Tracy Evan, Cyndi Jinks, Cynthia MacPherson, Dillon Abraham, Ryan Bassham, Brad Hardcastle, Tim Prososki and Frank Cottey.
Next year, the event should be back on schedule for the Saturday before Veterans Day, Pam said. “Thanks to everyone who participated and to the wonderful people in our community who stepped up to help keep this going and make Matthew’s memorial scholarship possible,” she added.