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The sky was bright, the fields misty and the trail muddy as more than 250 people converged at Greenfield School for Hope Station’s sixth annual Wilson Swamp Stomp.
Nearly 200 runners from Wilson and beyond stomped under, over, around and through obstacles and the Bloomery Creek swamplands to raise funds to support Hope Station’s pantry and shelter work. Another 50 participants were volunteers who helped make the event a success.
Presented by Bridgestone, Merck and Purdue Pharmaceuticals, this year’s event was judged by many runners to be the best yet. The cool and rainy spring created an extraordinary amount of mud, which seemed to be particularly exciting to the runners.
Eight-year-old Grace Bradley, part of a daughter and father duo, said, “I like the Swamp Stomp because it’s fun, and we get all muddy. I am scared sometimes when I do some of the obstacles, but I’m so proud when I’m done that I did it.”
Her father, Geoff Bradley, added that the Swamp Stomp is important to him “to show Grace that she is capable of doing more than she knows. Girls can get muddy, be brave and tough, and I’m glad we get to do this together.”
Runners relaxing at the finish line were already talking about next year. While most enjoyed the whole course, the most popular obstacles seemed to be the mud pit, zip line and slip and slide.
“Greenfield’s fields and swamps combine to make an ideal course which generates rave reviews and many muddy, wet smiles,” said Michael Darr, one of the event coordinators. “We were fortunate to come away injury-free for the second straight year and haven’t lost anyone!”
Melodie Powell, Greenfield’s director of student life, and Sarah Bradley, a Greenfield guidance counselor, worked closely with Hope Station planners and recruited students to help with the event.
“Greenfield School was thrilled to help with and host the Swamp Stomp on our campus,” Bradley said. “Giving back to the Wilson community is incredibly important to the students, families and faculty, and we were honored to have a part in helping raise funds and awareness for Hope Station.
“We believe in the concept of servant leadership and asking yourself not ‘What’s in it for me?’ but rather, ‘What can we do to help?’ We are glad to help.”
For Darr, this year’s event was bittersweet. The Swamp Stomp was his vision six years ago, and his creative energy has nurtured its growth. Darr has moved from his position as the plant manager at Bridgestone’s Wilson location and is now managing a plant in Wisconsin before moving to Nashville this summer. But he just couldn’t give up the Swamp Stomp and returned to Wilson for three weekends to prepare for the event and direct it on race day.
“This year’s Swamp Stomp was a great success,” Darr said in his thank-you message to volunteers. “The conditions leading up to race day provided a swamp that was full and overflowing and perfect for a mud and obstacle run.”
Affirming the importance of community engagement in the Swamp Stomp, he said the event would not be possible without so many generous sponsors, donors and volunteers.
On his way back out of town, Darr noted that he believes in the mission of Hope Station and was pleased that he could be a part of raising nearly $100,000 for its shelter and pantry work over the past six years.
“Michael will be sorely missed in our community, not only for what he has done for us, but for who he is as a person,” said the Rev. Linda Walling, Hope Station’s executive director. “We may just have to figure out a way to bring him back next year!”
Walling said it’s exciting to be a part of this unique event.
“There’s something very special about hundreds of people gathering on a Saturday morning to help fight hunger and homelessness,” she said. “On behalf of the board, staff, volunteers and clients of Hope Station, I say thank you to all the sponsors, runners and volunteers. Community support is what makes it possible for Hope Station to serve thousands of people in need every year.”
Named for Mayor Bruce Rose, who serves on the Hope Station board, the Mayor’s Cup honors first responders. It was awarded to a team of Wilson Police Department runners: Jack Davies, Kevin Fulghum, Eric Hayes and Russell Winstead.
First — Filthy Shades of Mud
Second — Redemption Runners
Third — Sahara
First — Rise and Shine Runners
Second — Team Binnsy
Third — Dirty Ditches
First — Schmitty’s Swamp Stompers
Second — Swamp People
Third — Cary 5.0
First — Hayley Selfe
Second — Amanda Jackson
Third — Addie Wright
First — William Powell
Second — Matt Kearney
Third — William Smith