Cleveland and Bradley County’s 26-member Run Now Relay team and support crew will be given a “Heroes Welcome Home” on Saturday as the athletes return home from an 8-day voyage that took them 1,075 miles to the Boston Marathon.
The one-hour public rally will get underway at 9 a.m. from the Bradley County Courthouse Plaza, the same spot where hundreds gathered 1 1/2 weeks ago to send the team on its multistate journey to New England.
Since delivering checks to two Boston charities of more than $63,000 last Saturday, Run Now Relay team members have been returning to Cleveland in groups. Some remained in Massachusetts for Monday’s legendary marathon. Four ran the 26.2-mile course: Johnny Clemons, Matt Ryerson, Matt Carlson and Fred Garmon.
Saturday’s “Heroes Welcome Home” will feature a delegation of local and state officials who will be stationed on-stage as the runners make their dramatic return “run” into the downtown area. Steve Hartline of My Mix 104.1 Radio will emcee the event.
Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland and Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis will head the local and state officials on stage and will present each of the runners and their support crew team a citation making them official “Cleveland/Bradley County Ambassadors” acknowledging their participation in the Run Now Relay to Boston. Taking part will be state Reps. Kevin Brooks and Eric Watson, and state Sens. Mike Bell and Todd Gardenhire — the same group on hand to give them a sendoff on April 12.
“It’s appropriate we honor this team for taking the Cleveland and Bradley County spirit cross country and all the positive national media coverage that brought attention and recognition to our community,” Rowland and Davis said in a joint statement. “Their faces and stories were featured in newspapers and television shows from Tennessee to Boston, even making appearances on ABC’s nationally televised ‘Good Morning America.’ They have been great ambassadors for our community.”
Janey Cooke, whose daughter Britney was one of the runners, is coordinating the event.
“We felt it appropriate to give them a ‘Heroes Welcome Home’ after making a 1,075-mile trek in eight days and raising well over $63,000 for charities,” Cooke said. “So many people have expressed a desire to see them return home and to hear their stories from along the route. This will be the perfect opportunity to do just that.”
As the ceremony begins, runners will be escorted into downtown Cleveland to the cheers of a gathered crowd, Cooke explained. Each runner will come across the stage plaza for a brief comment about their run experience and to receive their “ambassadorship” honor, she noted.
The ceremony will end promptly at 10 a.m. and will be followed by a private reception being hosted by Cooke’s Food Stores and the Dan Cooke family. The reception will allow runners and their immediate families to gather for fellowship and to share stories of the past few days on the road.
“So many friendships were made and so many wonderful stories were experienced along the way,” Cooke said. “The reception for families and runners will allow them to be together as one big family to share with one another.”