The Dell Country Mile — a 5K race or a 1-mile walk or run — began four years ago to raise funds for Gina Maria Barnes, a Westminster cancer patient in need. Over the years, the event has grown.
Funds raised at the event now benefit the Gina Maria Barnes Warriors Foundation, which was created by her family after her passing, as well as several other causes. The course has evolved, too, offering an option for adventure on the run.
On Sunday, Oct. 9, the 1-mile walk will begin at 10 a.m. with the 5-kilometer run beginning at 10:30 a.m. at Dell Brothers Grain, at 903 Sullivan Road in Westminster. All ages are welcome, but children younger than 16 must be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian.
Lindsay and Doug Dell came up with the idea for the run four years ago to help Gina Barnes, a mother of three that their oldest son, Garrett, was in a class with. Gina was battling cancer, and the Dells wanted to help.
Lindsay Dell said her family's experience in losing Doug's brother in a farming accident just a few years prior to the first run in 2013 made them think about what the Barnes family was experiencing. With three young children, Gina's battle seemed to speak to them.
"As a mother, I couldn't imagine having to go through what she was going through, even though at that time I didn't know her very well," Dell said. "We asked ourselves what we could do to help. Maybe it helps us in our own grieving process to do good for others. And it teaches our children that it is good to help others."
The Dell Brothers farm offers wide-open land where runners and walkers can enjoy beautiful country scenery. The first run in 2013 brought out 350 runners. In 2014 and 2015 the numbers dropped to 220 to 250 runners, so last year Doug Dell beefed up the course, offering two options — a muddy run or a clean run.
Erik Barnes said he has attended every run. His wife, Gina, made it to the first one, just a month before she died. All three of their children run the course annually.
"I was just over at the farm helping clear some trails and cut back some briars with Doug [Dell]," Barnes said. "Doug and Lindsay want to make it an exciting course. He even created a challenging mud course where you have to go through a stream and through some mud and over some obstacles to make it more fun."
Lindsay Dell said both the 5K and the 1-mile walk have two versions, the muddy one and the clean one.
"We actually did this last year, and the kids had so much fun," she said. "You have no idea how many shoes were lost. Kids came back in bare feet, so we recommend they wear old shoes and duct tape them to their ankles."
Dell said her husband, Doug plans the course, coordinating trail cleanup days with friends.
"He gets so excited about it and has so much fun doing it. The trail splits and the signs are clearly marked at the split for the clean course or the mud course," Barnes said, laughing. "We have a pond behind the grain mill, and last year people were walking into that to clean off. Some kids were even going back through again so they could see who could get the dirtiest. They were spreading it on their faces and getting extra dirty. I think it became a contest."
Barnes talked about the Gina Maria Barnes Warriors Foundation.
"Gina referred to all of those who were helping with donations and meals and other things as her prayer warriors or sometimes just her warriors — and that term stuck. We started the fund partly to help keep their mother's memory alive for our children and these events show that their mom is still in our hearts and minds. She was a wonderful woman and a great mom," he said.
According to Barnes, the foundation sponsors two $1,000 scholarships annually in Carroll County to graduating seniors. One is countywide, for a girl who will pursue lacrosse at the college level, because Gina was a huge fan of lacrosse and an assistant girl's director for the Westminster Area Lacrosse (WAX) organization. The other is for a Winters Mill High School senior who has overcome a cancer event in the immediate family.
"Gina's mom, Linda Dearing and her brother, Tony Christiani initiated a project with the Carroll Hospital center where they created Gina's Comfort Fund," Barnes said of a fund the Gina Maria Barnes' Warriors Foundation lends support to. "It was put in place to help colon cancer patients at Carroll Hospital center in a variety of ways, with gas gift cards to get to treatments, grocery gift cards and housecleaning services for patients who are weak and ill and acupuncture treatments that might help with the pain, or other needs. There is a wide range of things that help."
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Barnes said they raise funds in several ways, with the Dell Country Mile being a big part of the picture.
"We also have the help of WAX," he said. "Every year they sponsor a preseason tournament for girls just getting started in lacrosse called Gina's Warriors Lacrosse Play Day. Teams from all over the county come and play to honor her and raise funds for the foundation. And we have our first annual golf tournament coming up in June of 2017."
The upcoming run/walk means a lot to Barnes and his children, 15-year-old Alex, 13-year-old Sophia and 6-year-old Jake. He spoke of the very first Dell Country Mile.
"At the time the community was incredible supportive. Lindsay and Doug Dell took the initiative to start this with Tree of Friends Foundation. We had been experiencing an outpouring of support from the community but to see all those people turn out and find all that support in one place was incredible," he said.
The 1-mile walk/run costs $20 per person if registered by Oct. 6, or $30 if registered between Oct. 7-9. The 5K run/walk costs $30 per person if registered by October 6, or $40 if registered between October 7-9. Packet pickup will be open from 8-9 a.m. on Oct. 9 at the race location. Day of run registration will be available, too.
Dell said fruit, bottled water and energy bars will be available to participants. The first 150 to register to run or walk will get a T-shirt. Runners and walkers can register online at www.dellcountrymile.wixsite.com/dell.
For more information, call 410-984-7828 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.