Apr. 5—HENDERSON — A 5K community event to promote healthy living would have been significant any year. But Saturday’s inaugural Vance County Middle School Healthful Living Department Run and Walk 5K also served as a celebration for large groups being allowed to gather again without COVID-19 restrictions interrupting plans.
“Spring is here,” said Michael Rice, VCMS’s head football and track and field coach. “People are able to get back together. The pandemic kind of had us spread out. We were in our offices and in the school [when in-person learning initially resumed], but we were separated.”
Rice and fellow VCMS teachers Gloria Holden and Deon Smith orchestrated the free event that featured a DJ, vendors and an opening-ceremony performance from vocalist group Work in Progress.
A nutritionist was also on site along with health professionals providing checks for blood pressure and diabetes. Gang Free Inc. supplied free COVID tests, and healthy snacks were available for the several dozen folks who had pre-registered online to either run or walk the VCMS track. Rice also led a skills station on the field with jump ropes, hula hoops and the like.
“The point of all of this is to help promote health in our community and among our students here at school,” Holden said. “Just letting them know that walking is the cheapest, easiest exercise you can do to stay healthy.”
VCMS Principal Stephanie Ayscue noted that the 5K participants came from beyond the middle school, representing local elementary schools as well as schools outside the Vance County Schools system, and churches.
VCMS students of course were encouraged to attend, and eighth-grader J’Toine Hicks followed through on a very chilly spring morning that prompted most of the participants to opt for pullovers, sweatshirts and caps. Hicks wore a yellow-and-black jacket, sporting VCMS’s school colors.
“Shoutout to the whole Vance County Middle School team,” Rice said. “We’re just a big family.”
When Smith, a 2014 Southern Vance High school graduate, came through the school system, there were still two middle schools.
Smith, a former Southern Vance athletics standout, is now an assistant coach for the Jaguars in multiple sports, while teaching P.E. during school hours.
When the opportunity presented itself to work at home following college at Winston-Salem State University, Smith couldn’t pass it up.
Because of the chance to help his hometown with events like Saturday’s.
“I was looking forward to coming back and doing things in the community that I grew up in,” Smith said. “That was something special.”