One of those causes is the 2012 Great Strides: Taking Steps to Cure Cystic Fibrosis. Anchored this year by the 12th annual 65 Roses 5K road race and walk, the popular fundraiser will be held Saturday, March 31 — beginning and ending at the beautiful Lee University campus.
Excitement abounds on one end because Great Strides serves as a unique partnership between the Cleveland and Bradley County community, and the service-minded Lee student body, faculty and staff.
Excitement exudes on the other because last week Great Strides disclosed the name of this year’s honorary chairman. His is a name long known, and highly respected, in our hometown because of his years — actually, decades — of volunteerism given to our residents.
He is Beecher Hunter, president of Life Care Centers of America, a man who needs little introduction. Hunter has served as Life Care president for almost five years, and before that he was executive vice president for Corporate and Community Relations at the nationally acclaimed corporation whose home office is in Cleveland.
Many will remember him as a 13-year editor at this newspaper, one whose journalistic talents brought an array of awards to the Cleveland Daily Banner in editorial writing and community service projects.
During his years at the newspaper, Hunter developed a love for people and public service as evidenced by his civic involvement. He is a former president of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce and the Cleveland Family YMCA, and has served for years as a loyal volunteer and contributor for United Way of Bradley County Inc., among other well-respected nonprofit endeavors.
His is a busy schedule that is rivaled by few others, yet Hunter always maintains time for projects that benefit this community and people in need. None stands out so strikingly as his commitment to his house of worship, First Baptist Church of Cleveland, where he and his wife, Lola, are longtime members.
As Great Strides honorary chairman, Hunter will work closely with Lee University staff whose teamwork over the years has developed the widely anticipated event into a favored Saturday spectacular. The numbers tell the story.
In 2011, the event drew 300 walkers, 524 5K runners, 20 “fun run” participants and more than 80 volunteers whose downtown efforts raised more than $57,000 for Cystic Fibrosis research. Its growing success has not escaped the attention of the CF Foundation, as described by Leigh Ellington, East Tennessee development manager, who told our newspaper, “The Cleveland/Bradley County community has been incredibly generous and supportive of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation through Great Strides.”
She added, “Everything we do today makes a difference in the tomorrows of our CF patients, and Cleveland has done a lot.”
Since 2001, Cleveland Great Strides has raised more than $478,000. Last year alone at the national level, more than 600 walk sites across the country raised almost $38 million.
Like many health care causes embraced by communities across America, medical research continues to make “Great Strides” in extending and enhancing the lives of those stricken with Cystic Fibrosis — all thanks to annual fundraisers like the 65 Roses 5K road race and walk.
We urge our community’s continuing support. We encourage exercise enthusiasts, and those who are not, to join the cause.
Likewise, we congratulate Great Strides on naming an honorary leader of such exemplary character and proven hometown worth.
For more information, contact Tori Jessen, walk coordinator, at 614-8406, or visit the Great Strides website at www.leeuniversity.edu/cf.