By Senior Airman Regina Agoha
19th Airlift Public Affairs
More than 250 runners took to man the street leading to Little Rock Air Force Base for The Brian Valley Memorial 5K +1 April 27.
The 4.1 mile race down Vandenberg Blvd. marked the memory of Brian, a teenager who passed away from an accidental prescription drug overdose in 2006. This year’s race collected more than $11,000 for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Arkansas.
The Ronald McDonald House has sentimental value to Brian’s parents, Stan and Linda Valley, because of their experience staying there when Brian battled Hirschprung’s Disease as an infant.
“We lost Brian in 2006,” said Linda, coordinator of the Brian Valley Memorial 5K +1. “We decided it was time to do something in his memory. My husband and I have been doing half marathons for three years, and we just decided, ‘let’s try to put one together for him.’ We came up with the 5K +1 just to make it a little different. Most people do a 5K, which is 3.1 miles, we decided to do the plus one to make it a little different, so it’s going to be 4.1 miles. We’re also asking that people go the extra mile for the Ronald McDonald House charities of Arkansas.”
Linda said she is grateful that the Ronald McDonald House was an option for her and her family. At the time of Brian’s illness, Stan, Linda’s husband, was the only source of income. Not only was their newborn hospitalized, they also had a four-year-old son. Medical bills, hotel stays, traveling prices and the everyday necessities of a family of four were all stretched on a staff sergeant’s income. Without the Ronald McDonald House, Linda said she didn’t know what her family would have done.
“In 1988, we became connected with the Ronald McDonald House,” said Linda. “When Brian was an infant, we were stationed in Blacksburg, New York, and Brian had some health problems. The closest hospital was in Burlington, Vermont. We would have had to have taken a ferry to get there, which would cost way more than a night’s stay at the Ronald McDonald House. We ended up staying there for a month, and it truly was our home away from home. I don’t know what wewould have done without it. We were young; we didn’t have the money for hotel rooms.”
A stay at the Ronald McDonald House only cost the Valleys $10 per night back then, and that fee is still the going rate there today.
Feeling indebted to the Ronald McDonald House, the Valley family devoted time and compassion back to the House that did so much for them.
“Brian was 19 when he passed [away],” Linda said. “Once he got past all his health problems as an infant, he was a normal, typical child. He was very competitive and loved sports… a very, very compassionate, caring person. When [Brian and his brother, Aaron] were young and still lived in New York, they would volunteer at Ronald McDonald House there. Brian had been a volunteer there since he was about 10 years old. He loved it. He knows that without them his situation could have been different.”
The initial purpose for the 5K +1 was to bring awareness to the Ronald McDonald House and Brian, but it turned into a grander, more inspirational undertaking.
“At first, this was something Stan and I could both connect with, but as it’s gone on, it’s kind of turn into a little mission project,” said Linda. “We hear stories from perfect strangers. They hear our story, and I think it gives them hope that they can go on. No parent should have to bury their child. We do hope that we’re helping people realize it goes on though it’s not ever going to be the same.”
The Saturday morning event was filled with nothing but jubilance and comradely affection. Once runners crossed the finish line, they were greeted by Linda and Stan, who were accompanied by a cheering crowd of friends, family and complete strangers who just wanted to be a part of the cause.
Among the runners was a quiet, out of the spot- light, Aaron, Brian’s older brother, who stood in the back of the crowd, not drawing attention to himself at all. Aaron said he and his brother were really close, and he was glad that so many people came out to support an event with a good cause.
“It’s good to see as many people participate to help other families. I am proud of my parents for putting this together and supporting the Ronald McDonald House,” he said.
As the event ended and it was time for trophies to be handed out, Stan thanked everyone for coming and shared his appreciation with all who supported, donated or just showed up.
“All the efforts from 16 months come to this day,” he said. “I am extremely proud. I wish you all could have met Brian and hope none of you ever have to stay at the Ronald McDonald House. Here’s a big, big thank you to all for coming out. This will not be our first and only [race]. We want this to go on for years and years. This is just the beginning for the Brian Valley Memorial 5K + 1.”
For more information or to donate check out the website bvmemorial.com or email Linda Valley at firstname.lastname@example.org