It’s not like me to be so immodest, really, but I think that bragging is appropriate when it is appropriate, and it’s time I got the word out as to how my rocket-surgeon-level genius helped improve Take the Lake this year. So impressive were my feats that I shall dispense with further introductions and get right into the braggadocio.
First, choosing to hold the event in and around Lake Waccamaw State Park was top-shelf genius. That is a wonderful park, and the staff there are as good as they come. They keep the place looking beautiful year-round – you all know – but without
Just try to get a bicycle over this!
fail, each Labor Day weekend, they take that up a few notches.
As if to out-do themselves, when Hurricane Irene blew through the area, toppling trees throughout the park only a week before Take the Lake, rangers were out there the next day, and had more than three miles of trails cleared for the event. They cut up and removed at least two trees that were so large, a grown person had to struggle to climb over them.
My next brilliant move was to listen to park superintendent Chris Helms when he strongly suggested we reverse the route of the Walk / Run. Above all the debate about which direction would be the most comfortable, he pointed out the critical need for fast and efficient EMS access near the end of the 15-mile route, and while, yes, ATVs could pull a victim a mile or two out of the woods, we could easily park ambulances all up and down Bella Coola if we had to.
For the start of that Personal Endurance Challenge, we had been adamant about not sending people directly into the woods for fear of trampling half of them, and Helms and his staff suggested we first walk a mile down the park road toward the picnic area. This added about a third of a mile, but it worked well and to my utter surprise, our participants didn’t seem to mind.
Next up was my sheer brilliance in finding such a qualified and enthusiastic committee and volunteers. Julie Stocks, Grant Egley, Eric Brandt, Nubby Tebay and Walter Palmer have worked tirelessly to bring you the largest fitness event in the county at a time when this county sorely needs a large-scale fitness event.
Then I answered an email from Barbara Hill, who wanted to be one of our many volunteers. In a move that matched Einstein with Bernstein, I actually let her help – smart! Not only did she hang posters throughout South Whiteville with the best of them, but she really wrapped herself in the project, treating every storefront and every person as a new opportunity.
Terrie and Coburn Powell, Steve and Paula Smith, and Kristy Hilbourn and her crew from the Lake Waccamaw BB&T branch offered to give refreshments, fruit and snacks to our participants as they crossed the finish line, and I stood back and watched the amazing results.
Folks, if you have to organize an event – for the first year at least – find yourself some awesome participants. That’s what I did with the X-TREME!, and I don’t mind bragging about it. Here is an example of how a reasonable participant can be a part of the solution, and not compound the problem. When, for example, you mess up by not clearly marking your route, and your second-place runner accidentally takes a shorter route and cuts off your first-place runner, you need sensible, cool-headed participants who won’t raise a fuss, hurl insults and bring in the cops.
One of my smartest moves was simply saying “yes,” when Edwin Russ stepped up and offered to organize the lunch for veterans. Not only did he and his Shriner friends serve up healthy sandwiches fitting of the veterans in whose honor the lunch was, but he did it with his usual flair and a cool style that attracts other volunteers.
When you need a crack team of sharp individuals to record the times of more than 1,000 participants, just look to the pros at BB&T, I say, and then get out of their way when they perform that difficult task. Letting Jessica Andrews, Linda Tyree, Jennifer Hinson and those ladies pull that off was one of the smartest things I’ve done.
Then there are Tesa and Erik Busch from the N.C. Boys and Girls Homes. My I.Q. jumped 40 points the day I watched her take charge of gear sales, and him source so much of the equipment we needed, and I didn’t stop them.
When Judge Doug Sasser explained to me how he would lead the Boy Scouts of his Troop 500 to bring hundreds of bottles of water deep into the woods, and then recycle thousands of empty bottles from all around the lake, I just kept nodding my head in astute approval and let him go.
Everybody who picked up a bottle of water on the park trail has Sasser and the Scouts (and the park rangers) to thank, and everybody who dropped an empty bottle in one of those containers that Lake residents had put out has Troop 500 and friends to thank for recycling them.
When Linda Tyree offered to rally Boy Scout Troop 513 and Cub Scout Pack 507 to plant about 500 yellow flags along the park trails to help keep our X-TREME! participants on the trail even in the dark, I watched in admiration, patting my genius-self on the back the whole time.
The ladies at Herald Office Solutions and the Retired Senior Volunteer Program managed to pull off the very successful weeklong Take the Lake Emporium without letting me mess it up.
I let Harry Foley do his artwork, hanging direction signs and distributing water, and Kelly Bradford and her children in the Boys and Girls Homes Lions Cottage decorate the entire route with hundreds of yellow bows made by Pat Harrelson’s volunteer crew at the Department of Aging. I watched as Layton Dowless brought his beautiful military flags, and Columbus County EMS Director Jeremy Jernigan set us up with excellent communications.
I left Charles King alone as he led the Paddle Patrol through a safe trip. I didn’t meddle as the fine folks at the DREAM Center expertly folded more than 700 t-shirts, and I watched the entire Jackson Gore family as they supported Take the Lake right from the letter “T”.
The residents of Lake Waccamaw know a party when they see one, and it’s becoming a Labor Day tradition around here to “Take the Party,” with hundreds of people in their yards, cheering, waving, and heaping praise, water and snacks upon our participants. I know that every one of those participants appreciated every bit of all of that.
John McNeill and his family have been invaluable, leading the county in this fitness effort with generous support including donating thousands of the John A. McNeill Award so sought after by Walk / Run, Bike & Hike and Paddle Challenge participants.
An event of this size could not exist without support from the whole community, and this whole community has thrown its support behind Take the Lake, with generous sponsorships that have helped this event grow to something recognized through the region as a unique and effective goal-oriented fitness project.
Speaking of wisdom, I really have to give myself some credit here, for working for The News Reporter, which has for decades supported its community. More than any business, a community newspaper has a voice, and can use that voice responsibly by promoting positive community efforts. We have found our community ailing – in fact, rated the least healthy county in its state – and The News Reporter has gone to great lengths to improve that situation.
Last, I have to thank the more than 1,000 participants of the four Take the Lake Personal Endurance Challenges and the X-TREME! for taking that big step toward a more healthy lifestyle, and inspiring others to do the same.
Now, one of the dumbest things I’ve done (a long list, there…) is trying to mention all the people who have helped Columbus County Take the Lake, because I have surely left someone out, and no amount of genius will make up for that.
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Take the Lake would not be possible without our generous sponsors. Thank you for supporting fitness and good health in our community!
Thank you to our sponsors!
Columbus Regional Healthcare System
The John A. McNeill Family
Carolina Sports Medicine
Council Tool Company
Friends of Rube McCrae Memorial Library
Hill's Food Stores
Southeastern Community College
Baldwin Woods Pharmacy
Dale's Seafood Restaurant
Powell and Powell Law
Sam’s Pit Stop
Special Service Sponsors
Body Shapers Fitness Center
Lake Time Vintiques
The News Reporter
Take a few minutes and reel through the years of Take the Lake, as we review the many themes and posters that have helped make fitness more fun in Columbus County! Click here
After spending several years at the very bottom of the County Health Ranking -- as the least healthy county in all of North Carolina -- we have improved our lifestyles enough to move up to 96, and we are proud to be so healthy!
DID YOU KNOW...
that the second-most-popular Boy Scout merit badge in the U.S. is for Swimming? And the ninth-most-popular is Personal Fitness? Yes!
Six girls complete
all four PECs.
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