Runners braved harsh winds Saturday as Greenback hosted the third Tyson Tough race in memory of Tyson Waid, who died of brain cancer in December 2020 at 3 years old.
The race was originally organized by Josie Sevelius in December 2019 to help Waid’s family after the cancer diagnosis. Sevelius graduated from Greenback School alongside Tyson’s mom, Maggie Waid, in 2002, and as a breast-cancer survivor felt the need to help.
When Tyson died a year later, Sevelius decided to keep doing the race in his honor with a new goal in mind: provide scholarship money for Greenback students looking to pursue medical studies.
“Tyson was at the first race, and I’m a cancer survivor, so it’s kind of that special bond that you have with other cancer survivors, and so I told Tyson we would make his story count, so that’s what we did,” Sevelius said. “I’m just going to put it on every year and hopefully we can donate all the money to someone going in the medical field and eventually find a cure for childhood cancer. That’s kind of what drove us to use his story to help other people.”
Interested students can write an essay for Tyson’s parents, Maggie and Colt Waid, to read. They will then choose who they wish to award the scholarship. This year’s race raised $2,500, and Tyson’s aunt raised an additional $1,345 through Facebook that was added to the fund.
Greenback mayor Dewayne Birchfield said he was encouraged to see the community rally for one of their own.
“It’s nice to see people come out, just the neighbors and everybody in the city getting together for a good cause,” he said. “Our kids, they mean a lot to us here, this community, and it shows how the people turned out to do this race. That’s what it’s just all about, it’s a community that works together.
Runners of all ages gathered in the school’s cafeteria prior to the race where they could purchase commemorative T-shirts and complete registration. Sevelius said roughly 40 runners turned out in person, with another 30 participating virtually.
At 10 a.m., everybody went out in the cold to run for a good cause. Sevelius officially presented the checks to the Waid family, a participant sang the national anthem, another led everyone in prayer and Tyson’s sister Avery threw a first pitch to Birchfield to signal the start of the race.
“Tyson, he loved baseball,” Sevelius said. “He loved the Atlanta Braves, he loved everything baseball. The first year that we had the race, he pitched to start the race. … Obviously, Tyson’s not here to do that this year, so his little sister stepped in for the pitch for him. So that’s kind of why we did that. And then we gave Avery the ball so that she can keep it. It’s just a way to kick off the race and then honor Tyson because he loved baseball so much.”
Birchfield said the moment brought a tear to his eye as he remembered Tyson’s pitch at the inaugural race.
Runners then raced off for the 5K, with fun run participants heading out a few moments later. Greenback Rescue Squad and the Loudon County Sheriff’s Office blocked off roads to protect runners.
Marty McCarter won the 5K. A Greenback native, he participated in the first race in 2019 and said he loved being able to come out for his community.
“I was raised here, so anytime I can run and race in Greenback, I do it,” he said. “I love it. … Yeah, I’m pretty proud of this old place.”
The last participants trickled in just over an hour after the start of the race, concluding a successful event.
“It’s just, if I were ever in a situation, I know that my community would be there to support me,” Sevelius said. “So it’s important for me to be able to support someone else going through that.”