ELLSWORTH — The Down East Family YMCA has partnered with The Summit Project for its second annual Veterans Remembrance 4-miler.
The event — slated for Sunday, Nov. 8 — will feature 10 stones representing fallen service members from Maine — a state with one of the highest concentrations of veterans in the nation. Ten local runners will carry each stone the extent of the course.
YMCA fitness instructor Robin Clarke organized the first Veterans Day-themed race last November after competing in last year’s “Run for the Fallen” in Brunswick.
“The Run for the Fallen really touched me,” Clarke said. “I couldn’t believe we didn’t have something like that in this area.”
This year, Ellsworth resident Joelle Ingalls presented Clarke with a new idea for the race.
“I just saw this tiny little project and it just blossomed,” Ingalls said, referring to The Summit Project. “It’s a living memorial to Maine soldiers who have fallen.”
The Summit Project — founded by a Maine veteran, Maj. David J. Cote — honors fallen service members from Maine by engraving their initials on tribute stones, which volunteers carry on treks throughout Maine and elsewhere.
“You carry the stone, feel the weight and figure out over those miles how the weight you’re carrying has affected their loved ones,” Ingalls said.
Ingalls said stones have been taken on journeys as far away as Mount Everest.
Cote offered to lend Ingalls 10 of the project’s least-carried stones to honor them in this weekend’s race.
“Supposedly, they’re the ones that haven’t gotten as much time in the limelight,” Ingalls said. “We don’t want their service to go forgotten.”
Ingalls did her research and thoughtfully assigned each runner a veteran with whom she saw a connection.
For example, she assigned Clarke, an avid runner, to Army Capt. Christopher S. Cash — also a runner who now has an annual 5K named in his honor called “Run for Cash” in Old Orchard Beach.
“I just knew it would be the perfect matchup,” Ingalls said. “I get lost on the project’s website. I’ve read most of the profiles of these people.”
One factor Ingalls was unable to account for in her assignments was the size of the rocks — which are hand-selected by the soldiers’ families and come in all different shapes, sizes and textures.
“I have no idea what the stones will look like,” Ingalls said. “That makes it kind of fun.”
Clarke said regardless of the stones’ sizes, runners are expected to carry them the entire four miles.
“It might take some longer to finish because they have this behemoth stone, but we can’t quit,” Clarke said. “We can walk, crawl, drag… Whatever it takes.”
Locals who will be carrying a stone are Ingalls, Clarke, Tony McKim, Jessica Casey, Patrick Kimmel, Heidi Garrison, Josh Steward, Jason Garrison, Steve Sullivan and Dotty Small.
These volunteers are required to learn about their soldier and compose a post-event reflection letter addressed to the service member’s family.
The rest of the race is open to the public and will begin at 8:30 a.m. at the YMCA. Registration opens at 8. The cost per entry is $15.
Proceeds from the event — sponsored by The First — will benefit the Wounded Warrior Project and The Summit Project.
“We take care of our own,” Ingalls said. “This is a way for people to give back.”