‘Holding On, Being Strong:’ 5K Run honors memory of church van accident victims
By J.J. Kindred | (email@example.com)
Running enthusiasts descended upon the grounds of Cedar Grove Baptist Church in Maryville Sunday afternoon to participate in a 5K run honoring the memory of two church members tragically killed in a head-on collision in Sevier County one year ago today.
The “Hold On Be Strong” 5K Run/Walk honored the memory of Jeff Trussell, who served as the church’s youth minister, and Courteney Kaliszewski, a student at Seymour High School and a member of the church’s youth group.
Trussell was driving a church van full of youth group members from a weekend youth retreat in Gatlinburg, when the van was hit head-on by an SUV as it was traveling up Chapman Highway in Seymour, causing it to burst into flames and killing Trussell and Kaliszewski, plus severely injuring 12 others.
There were approximately 588 people registered for the event, with 437 finishing the race. Brent Bueche, of Maryville, was the first runner to cross the finish line, at a time of 19:05. The first female runner to finish was was 17-year-old Blakely Graham of Sevierville, with a time of 23:11.
Proceeds from the run benefited the Seymour Volunteer Fire Department, who were among the first people to arrive on the scene of the accident. An awards ceremony, hot dog supper, and a praise and worship service featuring guest speaker and Knoxville radio host Hallerin Hilton Hill followed the event.
“This event is to commemorate the events following the criminal acts of a selfish individual who took the lives of two fine individuals on the highway,” said Chuck Jones, a church member who emceed the event and whose daughter, Kelsie, was among the youth severely injured in the wreck. “This selfish individual simply chose to attack our church van with an automobile with devastating consequences. I’m a dad whose feelings were hurt and whose daughter was hurt.”
“It’s something I don’t wish on anyone and something I hope no one else has to go through,” said Kelsie Jones, a junior at Seymour High School and a member of the school’s marching band. “It helped me a lot and it hurt me a lot. I’m blessed to be here today. Our entire band family did so much for me, and I love them all so much. It’s just a blessing to have those kind of people
“Jeff and Courteney were wonderful people who lived selflessly. I’m thankful for impact they had on me,” she added.
Bueche, who works as an applications engineer for Johnson Controls, said after the race that it felt exhilarating.
“I’ve been kind of hurt for about a month. It just felt great,” Bueche told The Daily Times as he was recovering. “These kind of courses are so beautiful. If you like to run, this is it. Yeah, it’s hot, but so what?
“I grew up on a 50-acre farm, so I’m used to running,” Bueche continued with a laugh. “I was very excited to honor those people and their memory and for the proceeds to go to fire department as well. When I drove out here, I said to myself this is my kind of run. I will take a run in the country as opposed to the city any day.”
Nancy Kaliszewski, mother of Courteney Kaliszewski, said she was touched that her daughter was honored as part of the Sunday’s event.
“It just shows how amazing it is and how many lives have been changed,” Kaliszewski said. “It’s taking tragedy and making good. Our church is just one big family. Courteney is looking down and having a blast, and loving every minute of it.”
Before the race began, Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell presented a proclamation, declaring Sunday “Hold On Be Strong” Day.
“This is really overwhelming,” Mitchell said.” There are just so many people here today — this is a great event to honor the memory and the legacy of a lot of people that just have really risen above some horrific things that have happened in their life. You always hear that time and faith will get you through your memories, but I think faith gets you through it. Time really doesn’t heal everything, but faith does. With the participation of this church and this community, it’s a great tribute to a great cause.”
“We had anticipated 200 to 250 people,” added Bob Lynch, pastor of Cedar Grove. “Our race team committee just took the ball and started rolling with it. Chuck was just fantastic. We have about 600 to 700 people, and 200 people were standing around just waiting. Most of these people are here to support the young people and the adults of our church. It’s just fantastic.”