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In benefit 5K, one person finished first, but everyone won

Thanksgiving Day benefit run

The Greater 5K was organized to help the family of Paul Drury, an area teenager who is fighting leukemia.
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The Greater 5K was organized to help the family of Paul Drury, an area teenager who is fighting leukemia.

Why their faith would carry them to Idaho wasn’t immediately clear to the Drury family when they moved from New Jersey in 2015. But then younger son Paul was diagnosed with leukemia in April.

“They were asking God, Why Idaho? And they didn’t quite know,” a family friend, Chris Browne, said Thursday. “Then when Paul was diagnosed, they found hope in that — that God brought them here so they would be part of a supportive community that rallied around him and loved him.”

We are standing by him through this and we’re gonna help him get through this.

Paul Drury’s Classmate Josh Johnson

On Thanksgiving morning, members of that community, many of them area families with students who attend The Ambrose School in Meridian where Paul is an eighth-grader and Browne is a principal, turned out to show that support by the hundreds – about 400, in fact. They gathered at the Eagle Sports Complex to run a 5K race through the Foothills to raise money that will help the Drury family meet expenses related to his treatment.

“Everything has been donated,” said T.J. Browne, Chris Browne’s wife, who began planning the event with a few others just last month. Given the nature of the course, they chose to limit participation to 300. But when more showed up Thursday, no one was turned away.

“It’s pretty amazing to live in a community where people will get together for something like this,” she said. “It humbles me. I can’t believe how much it’s taken off.”

That’s (the Ambrose School community). They go above and beyond. If they say they’re going to do something, they don’t do anything halfway.

Paul’s mother, Tracy Drury

There was no entry or registration fee, only a request for donations. Browne said she hoped to break $5,000, but when all the counting was done, donations topped $9,000.

And the family will definitely have use for it. Paul will enter a Seattle hospital late next month to undergo more treatment in preparation for a scheduled bone marrow transplant in January. He will be in Seattle from early December and must remain close to the hospital for at least 100 days after the transplant.

The Drurys, who split their time between residences in Meridian and Malad, were drawn here by Ambrose’s reputation. Founded in 1995, the K-12 school with 550 students follows a “classical Christian” curriculum steeped in Western tradition, Chris Browne said.

“Ambrose has been very wonderful for our family. They’ve gone out of their way to do a lot of different things,” Paul’s mother, Tracy, said Thursday, speaking by phone from their home in Malad, where the family is spending Thanksgiving. Her husband, Bill, a pilot for Delta, is away doing what airline pilots do at the holidays — flying other people around.

She said she knew nothing about the event until she saw it on Facebook. The funds raised will help pay for food and lodging in Seattle, she said.

Just before start time Thursday, classmates of Paul’s gathered for a photo. Since Paul will be out of town on his actual birthday, they held an early celebration for him Tuesday at Wahooz in Meridian.

“It’s a really hard thing to go through,” said Markus Mathis. “We just want to comfort him and push him forward and uplift him.”

“A lot of it is just being behind him as a community and his friends for support,” Aidan Culligan said.

The starting gun sounded a little after 9 a.m. under skies that were overcast but dry, as Amanda Patchin gratefully noted. A teacher at Ambrose, she sewed ribbons on the 350 wooden medals that her husband, Jared, a woodworker, crafted for the event.

“It’s impressive to see 350 people walking around,” Patchin said. “I think I’ve given up being surprised by how generous people can be, though. It’s really easy to get people excited about caring for other people.”

She continued: “When you feel discouraged about our society, or our presidential elections, or the news cycle is so negative, and then you just look around. All these people — most of them haven’t met Paul or don’t know who he is, or just heard of him and don’t really know the family, and are just totally happy to go out of their way.”

Who won the race? Well, let’s just say that Joseph Ndihokubwayo, a 19-year-old from Boise, finished first. Everyone who turned out was a winner, no matter their time.

Bill Dentzer: 208-377-6438, @IDSBillD