It began with a conversation during a car ride that progressed from, “We should really start exercising,” to “Hey, we could plan a 5k,” to “What can we run for?”
From there, Lauren Gledhill and Melody Hurston, both 20-year-old juniors at LaGrange College, decided to sponsor a 5k run/3k walk to benefit autism research and education.
“We just kind of started talking and decided to go ahead and do it,” said Gledhill, who is from Carrollton.
Both women have seen the affects of autism - Gledhill has a family member with Asperger’s, a form of autism, and Hurston is an education major who sees it in the school system.
“People don’t always understand the issues with autism. We wanted to spread awareness,” said Hurston, who is from Bremen.
The two did their online research and found Autism Speaks, an organization that provides research, support and education on autism. The organization also has a group that works with college students who want to do fund raising projects.
“I found an e-mail address on the website and just sent it off,” Gledhill said.
The two also told Jack Slay, dean of students, and Tara Kermiet, director of student activities and service, what they planned.
“They told us they would help, but it would be our job to do this,” Gledhill said.
A conference call with the four of them and a representative from Autism Speaks got the ball rolling. They chose a name - Panthers Pounce on Autism - and set a date.
“We were so excited, but then you think, ‘Oh. my gosh, what are we doing,’” Hurston said.
Their enthusiasm was impressive, Slay said.
“The energy and enthusiasm these two have shown for this cause gives me real hope for that generation,” he said.
The Student Government Association service budget kicked in $500, and Kermiet connected them with Corley Graphics, which agreed to donate T-shirts.
“That was amazing when we found out we wouldn’t have to pay for the T-shirts. Then we went to other places every day for a week. We weren’t expecting a lot, but we had a lot of rejections,” Hurston admitted.
However, LongHorn Steak House agreed to provide water for the participants on Saturday. Then college students - including the entire football team - volunteered to be the manpower for the event. That will allow organizers to use the entire registration fee of $10 for their cause.
The two are stunned that so many participants have registered - about half students and faculty and half community members. It was a slow start, though, and at times they wondered if they would pull it off.
“We knew we’d have six people - the two of us and our parents,” Gledhill said. “Then Dean Slay paid for his entire family, and we were up to 11. We were so excited.”
Word spread, and the numbers slowly rose. In the last two weeks, registration doubled the deadline to register for a T-shirt neared.
“I type in every name and T-shirt size into spread sheets. One night I know I typed in 100 names,” Hurston said.
They’re excited and a little overwhelmed at it all, but both see the response as an extension of their faith.
“This is so not Lauren and Melody,” Hurston said. “People laugh when we say this, but it’s really a God thing. There’s no way we could have done this on our own.”
— Panthers Pounce on Autism
A 5k run and a 3k walk begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at the LaGrange College soccer field beside Callaway Auditorium. Registration is $10, and same-day registration is available but T-shirts will be given only to those who pre-registered. The event is sponsored by LaGrange College students, but open to the community and benefits Autism Speaks.
Sherri Brown can be reached at sbrown@ lagrangenews.com or at (706) 884-7311, Ext. 240.