Storming Back: Blanks to participate in 5K race for Walters familyWritten by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s note: Toledo Free Press will follow the Blank family of Millbury for one year as they rebuild their lives after a June 5 tornado destroyed their Main Street home.
It has been nearly a year since Robin Arquette lost her brother and most of his young family to the June 5 tornado, a tragedy so unthinkable that she still does not believe it.
Despite the unfathomable grief, she is working to make sure people never forget Ryan Walters and his kindness, his devotion to education and his desire to help people.
It is in that spirit the Walters Family 5K is planned for 8 a.m. June 4, beginning at the Millbury Fire Station, 1911 Ayers Road in Millbury. The race is expected to become annual.
Robin’s brother, Ryan, his wife, Mary, and their son, Hayden, died as the result of injuries suffered when the tornado tore through the house as they slept. Their daughter, Maddie, who survived, is expected to give the customary “ready, set, go” at the race.
“I decided I needed to do something positive out of this negative. What two items go together? [Ryan] was getting into running and education is important to our family,” Robin said.
One hundred percent of proceeds from race entries and activities will go to a scholarship fund for computer and technical studies students attending Owens. The youngest of four, Ryan graduated from Owens and worked at the Hospice of Northwest Ohio.
“Every one of my siblings has a bachelor’s and my older brother has an MBA,” she said. “We wanted to benefit youth in the area, especially those who helped clean up from the tornado. My brother and sister-in-law always tried to do positive things. It is important to give back.”
Ryan had almost completed his bachelor’s degree in management and organizational development from Spring Arbor University when he died. Maddie accepted his diploma posthumously in November with Aunt Robin by her side.
Robin shared some excerpts that Ryan had written for a school project about education and helping others.
“To embrace a lifelong learning and demonstrate to my children the value of an education by finishing my Bachelor’s degree by 2010 and possibly going on for a Master’s degree,” Ryan wrote.
He also stated: “To look for the good in others and help them achieve their goals by listening to them and connecting their goals with people, projects or resources I may know.”
The race for Ryan and his family is part of a weekend of remembrance of the tragedy. The Walters lived next door to Ed and Julie Blank; Ed is planning a block party for later that day with the help of the police and fire departments, the mayor of Millbury and others from Lake Township.
Julie and her son, Casey, are participating in the race. Julie talks frequently to Amy Sigler, Mary’s sister and the aunt that 8-year-old Maddie lives with a few miles from her old home.
“They were our nextdoor neighbors and they were good neighbors and good friends,” Julie said. “Running meant a lot to Ryan. Although I am not a runner, I will walk in his memory/honor.”
Sharon Arquette of Toledo remembers getting that dreadful call from her stepson, Chris Arquette, who is married to Robin.
“It was just sad, just very sad. I can only describe it as sad,” Sharon said, who is helping organize the race because Robin and Chris live in the Cleveland/Akron area.
Sharon’s house became the headquarters for Robin and Chris, who stayed in town for two weeks combing through the wreckage and visiting Ryan in the hospital before he died a week later.
Robin said it is hard to comprehend that this happened to her family. It seems like a fluke, an impossibility to be killed in a tornado. One thing she did in July is release Batman balloons for her nephew, Hayden, who would have been 5. He had requested she make him a Batman birthday cake before the tornado.
Mark Beck, race director, said 35 people have registered so far. He expects 200 in total. Most people wait until the day of the race before they sign up, but Sharon said this isn’t a time to wait for blue skies. It doesn’t matter if it rains, she wants people to participate, just like they do in Susan G. Komen.
“This is for a good cause,” she said.
Race entries are available at Second Sole in advance or on the day of the race at the registration table in Millbury at 6:30 a.m. Preregistration is $20 by May 28; $25 on day of race. Direct any questions to email@example.com.