Main Street Mile

Benefit races slated for Aug. 12
By Angela Dove | Aug 26, 2011
Photo by: Stina Sieg

This Friday night, Waynesville will see its second annual Main Street Mile, and I’m excited. Not because it pulls our community closer together. And not because all proceeds go to support Shriners Children’s Hospital of Greenville, which gives free medical care to seriously ill babies and kids. Sure, those are important. But frankly, I’m in it for the bright orange vest.

First, a bit of backstory: The Main Street Mile was the brain child of local sports and physical therapist Eric Yarrington, whose daughter, Sophie, was born with torticollis and slight scoliosis. Eric and his lovely wife, Shannon, sought treatment from Shriners.

“We were so moved by the tremendous, compassionate care we received that we decided to give back,” says Eric.

Together with family friend Michelle Smith and Jason Bodnar, Eric decided to organize a fundraiser for the hospital — a series of mile-long races for adults, kids and groups, including law enforcement and first responders.

Eric pitched the idea to various town officials and was amazed. From every town office, official and local merchant, “we’ve had nothing but support,” says Eric.

Badcock Home Furnishing has even donated their parking lot near the finish line for free pizza, beer and sodas, face painting and games for kids, and live music (all provided by sponsors). Meanwhile, local businesses like Hazelwood Soap Company chipped in to offer goodie bags to race participants.

My husband and I have been friends with Eric and Shannon for over a decade. (We met in childbirth class; once you’ve fake-labored with another couple, you’re friends for life.) During the first Main Street Mile, my husband and daughter easy jogged the course together while I volunteered. After the walk-up participants were registered, the volunteer squadron leader handed me an orange vest and 10 minutes later my trepidation and I were stationed at an intersection leading up to Main Street — a well-used cut through for local traffic. When the first car came toward me I stepped from the curb and raised my palm. The driver slowed, rolling down her window.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “This part of Main Street’s closed for the next hour.”

I cringed, waiting for her complaint. Instead, she took in my bright orange vest, nodded and turned her car around.

No way.

But yes! It happened repeatedly! Some drivers didn’t even stop — they just saw the vest and turned aside. I smoothed my violent orange nylon lapels. Dang. I’ve got to get me one of these things.

My winning streak ended in the form of a two-tone Lincoln Town Car. An elderly gentleman made as if to drive around me when I stepped out in front of his vehicle. He braked hard and growled, “I’ve already been waved on by your buddy down the street. What exactly is going on here?”

“It’s a charity run for Shriners Children’s Hospital, sir,” I said. “Sorry for the inconvenience.”

He hurrumphed. “Well I’ve got to get across the street.”

“If you go about a quarter mile further, you should be able to cross without a problem.”

“Oh, Howard,” the woman beside him said irritably, ignoring his glare. “It’s for a children’s hospital. Let’s just go a couple of blocks down and circle back. It’s not a big deal. ”

“The children thank you for your cooperation, Howard!” I was startled to hear myself say.

He furrowed his bushy eyebrows at me while the woman hid a giggle behind her hand. But what mere mortal can stand against the combined forces of good citizenry and orange nylon?

“Fine,” he glowered.

The woman waved to me as they pulled away.

I looked down at the vest.

“Stop working your magic power trip on me. You’re not Kevlar,” I thought.

But the rest of the evening was trouble free, and at the end of it I parted with the vest reluctantly.

I haven’t thought about that night much during the past year, but when Eric sent me an email about this year’s Main Street Mile, I can’t deny my heart beat a little faster. The power of the vest is calling to me.

Angela Dove is an award winning columnist and author. For more information on how you can help Shriners, visit www.WaynesvilleMainStreetMile.com. Registration is $15 in advance and $20 at the tent. Those wanting to volunteer may email eric@yarringtonpt.com.

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