It might seem strange to some that Sheri and Rich Guider would organize a 5K run in memory of their son, Jonah, who was unable to run more than a few seconds.
But the Guiders — both of whom are experienced runners — know that fellow runners would understand.
“I see it as a blessing,” Sheri Guider said tearfully, while apologizing for becoming emotional. “I see it as something that I’m thankful I can do and I do it for Jonah. He always wanted to run. He was a spunky little kid, he just couldn’t be spunky for long.
“Runners are a special group of people, and we kind of support each other,” added Sheri, who is also a teacher at Walter Hill Elementary School. “I know for me, it’s my way to get away from things. It’s kind of like my healing.”
The Guiders will hold the second annual RunJonahRun 5K on Saturday, Nov. 12, at Blackman High School. The event will raise funds for pediatric Pulmonary Hypertension, the disease that claimed their middle son’s life 18 months ago during the summer after his fifth-grade year.
Pulmonary Hypertension, or PH, is a disease that causes high blood pressure in the lungs and is a chronic condition that can lead to heart failure, according to the Pulmonary Hypertension Association. The condition is especially threatening for children.
“Right now there are zero medications for children and there are 14 approved for adults,” Sheri explained. “So you can see why there is such urgency to raise money and awareness.”
The proceeds from the run are going to support what is known as a “Barst Research Grant,” named for Doctor Robyn Barst, a pioneer in the study of PH and for identifying treatment options for children. Barst passed away in 2013, but for 25 years, she was considered a leader in the field by providing cutting edge treatment for children and adults with PH. Since her passing, her family has established the research grant program as a way for the PH community to continue to support medical research, according to the Pulmonary Hypertension Association.
Last year, the RunJonahRun event drew the attention of about 150 runners, and the Guider family raised approximately $4,000. Through a GoFundMe account, a motorcycle run and other efforts, they raised the full $25,000 needed for the Barst grant. They reached the full amount one year to the date of Jonah’s funeral, which was June 25, 2015.
For this year’s run, Guider has secured sponsors to help cover the costs for organizing the race, including timing the race, T-shirts, cones and police patrol.
“I would like to double what I did last year (through the run). So I would like to see us reach the goal of $8,000,” said Sheri, although they plan to continue raising money throughout the year until they hit $25,000 again.
Rich added, “We’re on our second round of doing it all over again.”
The faculty at Blackman Middle School — where Jonah would have been a seventh-grader this year — has also joined the effort. The school designated this year’s proceeds from its Red Ribbon Week activities to go to Jonah’s fund.
“When we decided on events for Red Ribbon Week (a nationwide drug free initiative) the word “red” stuck with me and I asked that the money raised go to Jonah’s cause,” Blackman Middle School teacher Nicole Davis said. “The money will be put into the lot they have from their upcoming community event … and donated in Jonah’s name to the Pulmonary Hypertension Association and pediatric research of pulmonary hypertension.”
The school raised more than $500, Davis said.
The race will begin at Blackman High School where runners will head down Blaze Drive and onto Fortress Boulevard — passing the J-shaped memorial garden that Blackman Elementary School created in memory of Jonah.
In addition to raising funds for research, Sheri hopes the event will also bring awareness about PH.
“When he got diagnosed with the disease, we had never heard of that disease and many people hadn’t,” Sheri said. “The symptoms of the disease are that of someone with asthma so a lot of shortness of breath, not being able to be very physical. Jonah was always one, where he could run, but it would be like literally 10 seconds later he would be doubled over for breath.
“So we thought a run would be the best way to honor him because it was something he could never really do.”
Runners or walkers of all skill levels are invited to participate and can register at the website www.runjonahrun.net, where you can also see pictures of Jonah, learn more about his story and pulmonary hypertension. The cost per runner is $30, which includes a T-Shirt — and teams of 10 or more are $25 each. Registration will close Nov.9 (T-shirts guaranteed through Nov. 6) but same-day registration will be accepted.
To learn more about Pulmonary Hypertension, visit the organization’s website at www.phassociation.org.


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