Running to Remember the Ten
Athletics America's Healthiest Campus University Counseling Services
Every year, OSU solemnly pauses on the anniversary of the tragic events of January 27, 2001. Ten members of the Cowboy basketball family perished when their plane crashed while returning from a game at the University of Colorado.
For the past nine years, the university's official memorials have been complemented by the Remember the Ten Run, which celebrates the lives of "The Ten" while supporting counseling services and scholarships.
Alumnus Kerry Don Alexander founded this event after reading "Riding With the Blue Moth" by Bill Hancock. Hancock's son, Will, was on the flight as the basketball team's media relations coordinator. One of Hancock's methods for dealing with the grief was to literally keep moving forward, riding his bike from the Pacific Coast to the Atlantic.
"I originally thought about creating a cycling race, but a run works a lot better. You can get more people involved and have a large group of people together at the start. We've been able to put on a quality event that people enjoy and see as a good way to remember."Kerry Don Alexander, Event Founder and Chair
Alexander and other members of the Remember the Ten Run Organizing Committee praise OSU's dedication to honoring The Ten on the anniversary of the crash.
"They invite the families to come visit the memorial in Gallagher-Iba Arena, along with tolling the library bells and pausing at a basketball game for a moment of silence," Alexander says. "We didn't want to take anything away from that. We were looking for a way to complement it by inviting the larger OSU family to come together and celebrate the lives of those we lost that day."
The first Run was April 21, 2007, and it has returned on the third Saturday of April each year. About 2,000 participate between the competitive 10-kilometer and five-kilometer races as well as the one-mile fun run. About 175 volunteers ensure the event runs smoothly while keeping expenses to a minimum. That enhances its efficiency as a fundraiser supported by registration fees, sponsorships and donations.
Through the OSU Foundation, the event provides $20,000 annually to University Counseling Services. OSU's Director of University Counseling Services Suzanne Burks is a member of the organizing committee. She highlights many ways these funds help her department, which often assists students experiencing grief for the first time.
"This money provides important training for our counseling staff. It helps pay for grief counseling so that we can keep that free for everyone who needs it. It also covers grief materials that increase our presence around the OSU community. We share those as part of new-student orientation."Suzanne Burks, Director of University Counseling Services
Will Hancock's wife, Karen, was head coach of the Cowgirl soccer program from its founding in 1996 until 2007, when she transitioned into her current role as an assistant coach.
She became a grieving widow 10 weeks after her daughter's birth. Karen Hancock, who had never seen a counselor before, says therapy "might have saved my life."
"I was an independent, strong-willed, stubborn person who was used to doing everything myself – the type of person who thought needing help was a sign of weakness. That's poppycock, of course. Accepting help is really a learned skill, and it's wonderful to give back to the staff and students in that field."Karen Hancock, Cowgirl Soccer Assistant Coach
Burks says there is no question resources provided by Remember the Ten have helped her department respond to other tragedies. The most obvious was November 17, 2011, when a plane crash killed four members of the Cowgirl basketball family: Coach Kurt Budke, assistant Miranda Serna, and pilots Olin and Paula Branstetter.
For the past four years, the run has also funded $1,000 scholarships. The 10 annual recipients are chosen among graduate students in clinical psychology, counseling psychology, community counseling, and marriage and family therapy.
"We rely on the number 10 a lot in all we do. So as we build our scholarship endowment, we plan to stick with 10 scholarships, but we will begin increasing the value of each award."Jason Pogue, Event Co-Chair and OSU Senior Financial Manager and Human Resource Manager
Sean McCabe is the race director and OSU's former director of operations for cross country and track and field. He says it is important that the event is always quality so that it continues to bring people together year after year.
"There are quite a few good runners in this state, and they like to come here to compete. We offer prize money, which attracts some of the better runners. We put on a good event, and in doing so we keep telling the story of these members of the OSU family who died. We build that remembrance, which is what we're all about."Sean McCabe, Race Director
They also remember others, such as E.R. "Tracy" Shirley III. He was race director from 2007-2011 and competed for the first time in 2012. The following month, he died in a plane crash.
The committee honors him by presenting the Tracy Shirley Volunteer of the Year award to a deserving person or group after each event.
"Tracy did so much to make this run a success," Alexander says. "We think it's very special to keep his memory alive through this award."
Along with volunteers and participants like Shirley, the committee is grateful for others who make the event a success. That includes the Stillwater and OSU Police Departments, OSU President's Office, OSU Athletics, the OSU Foundation and Westwood Neighborhood Association.
"Just before the race, it feels like there is only one heartbeat," Alexander says. "Counting everyone, it is well over 3,000 people involved. That's a huge crowd and such a special moment. I hope everyone in the OSU family comes and experiences this at least once."
Pogue adds, "It's a festive atmosphere. It's cool to see the families create special shirts for their loved one and see so many people come out and run together in memory."
Those interested in supporting Remember the Ten can participate, volunteer or donate. More information is available at remembertheten.com.