Swannanoa Valley stands behind Montreat College coach

Local community continues to show support for Britten Olinger

Fred McCormick

Community support for Montreat College's head track and field coach has been strong, with a pair of recent events raising nearly $20,000 for Britten Olinger’s recovery.

Olinger was severely injured when the car he was in was struck by a car driven by Kyle Carney, a 30-year-old Winston-Salem man that was reportedly traveling at speeds of up to 120 mph. The wreck in the State Street-Montreat Road intersection left the popular coach with several injuries, including a severed spinal cord.

The boarded-up windows of Town Hardware & General Store, which were shattered in the Feb. 27 collision, display the community's support for the Montreat College coach.

Hours after the wreck, a GoFundMe page was started to support the coach’s recovery. The campaign spread rapidly across social media platforms and raised more than $44,000 in less than 24 hours.

The Native Kitchen and Social Pub, which regularly holds fundraisers to benefit community schools, was among those in the community to help. It held a benefit for the Olinger family March 25.

“A big mission of Native is to give back to the community,” said Logan Long, the Swannanoa restaurant's marketing assistant. “When the owners heard about what happened, they really felt passionate about doing something to gather the community to support him and his family.”

The circumstances surrounding the tragedy - and the hefty financial burden that the Olinger family faced during the coach's long recovery - moved the Native to donate 100 percent of profits from its benefit.

“There were over $10,000 in sales, which is the most the Native has done in a day,” Long said. “That really shows just how much the community came together to show their support.”

The Britten Strong Race to Recovery 5K Run/Walk hasn’t happened yet, but already it has raised more than $7,000, according to Shane Kamer, an assistant professor of exercise science at Montreat College.

“My introduction to exercise science class is made up of freshmen starting our exercise science program,” he said. “Their class project is to organize a 5K race where we donate the money raised to benefit someone in the community.”

News of Olinger’s ordeal was reverberating through campus as the class began searching for a race beneficiary.

“One student said ‘hey, why don’t we make this race benefit Coach O,’” Kamer said. “I said great, let’s do it.”

Students in the class took on different race responsibilities, which was scheduled for April 6 before severe weather caused it to be postponed until Thursday, April 27.

Three or four students were tasked with approaching local businesses to garner support, Kamer said.

"The community response has been great,” he said. “Black Mountain Tire donated like $500, Ingles donated water and bananas and granola bars. The local shops have been very responsive. Nobody said no.”

The race had signed up 168 runners and several sponsors as of April 12. Registration will be open through the morning of the event, Kamer said.

“If we get to 300 runners then that’s great,” he said.

The race will start on the track inside Pulliam Stadium, on Montreat College's Black Mountain Campus. The course will combine the track, the college's cross country course and the town of Black Mountain's greenway. A check will be presented to the Olinger family at the conclusion of the race.

In late March Olinger was transported from Mission Hospital to the Shepherd Center, an Atlanta hospital that specializes in spinal cord injuries. He has started rehabilitation there, according to a GoFundMe page post by his sister. The crowd-sourcing campaign had raised more than $112,000 as of April 12.

Kamer would like the race to be an annual event.

"It's already set up, so I'd like to see future classes take what this class has done and make it bigger and better," he said. "If money needs to be raised for Coach O, then great. Or it could be held in his name for another person in our community that needs help."