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Sporting events show community support remains strong for Olingers
Britten Olinger had not lived in Black Mountain long when his life was forever changed in February 2017 by a tragedy in the center of town. The community was quick to show its support of the Montreat College track and field coach and his family in the wake of the wreck that paralyzed him and nearly took his life.
Fourteen months later, the Olingers continue to be embraced by the Swannanoa Valley - two events, separated by less than a week, raised more than $30,000 for Britten Olinger, his wife Sam and their children, Kolbie and Easton.
On April 20, dozens of local businesses and 116 golfers took part in the Britten Strong Golf Tournament at the Black Mountain Golf Course. The idea for the event was Eddie Colley's. He is the broker in charge at the Black Mountain Keller Williams office.
Approached by an anonymous donor who agreed to match money raised, Colley began reaching out to local businesses about a golf tournament and silent auction. He found many were willing to offer prizes for the silent auction or host a hole.
Scott Counce, owner of the Merry Wine Market on State Street, sponsored the first hole.
“Black Mountain is a special place. I like to tell people we’re a metropolitan city dressed up as a small town,” he said. “We have so many people from so many different places, but we truly are one gigantic family. And one of our family members was hurt and needs our help.”
With the help of his sons, Counce asked golfers at the tournament to drive a marshmallow through inflated tubes for a chance to take two strokes off of the hole. While Counce had fun at the event, he also took the time to talk to the golfers about the reason for the tournament.
“I’ll never forget that day,” said Counce, who was in his store on Feb. 27, 2017 when authorities say Kyle Carney of Winston-Salem crashed into Olinger’s vehicle at speeds determined to be over 100 miles per hour. Carney was indicted on charges of speeding, reckless driving to endanger, driving left of center and assault with a deadly weapon. The case is still pending in Buncombe County Superior Court.
“There but by the grace of God go any of us,” Counce said. “They’re a private family, but they’ve had to allow the community to come in, and they’ve been gracious enough to let us help. I was honored to have a part in that tournament.”
Lifelong residents embraced Olinger at the golf tournament, named after the rallying cry - “Britten Strong” - that raised awareness for the coach’s plight.
Former Owen football coach Kenny Ford, known for inspiring his players to do their best, started the tournament with a chant. He instructed the players in golf carts on his right to say “What are we?” while directing those on his left to respond “Britten strong!”
Olinger and his family stood nearby as Ford led several rounds of the loud chant. After firing the crowd up, the coach embraced Olinger.
“I was asked to start this thing off, and I couldn’t believe it,” Ford said. “It’s an honor to be part of it.”
The tournament raised $12,500, according to Chloe Lunsford, who organized it.
“The anonymous donor offered to match what we raised, so we ended the day with $25,000 for Britten and his family,” she said.
Colley would like to see the tournament became an annual event.
Six days later, on its Black Mountain campus, Montreat College hosted the second annual Britten Strong Race to Recovery 5K. The race attracted nearly 140 runners and several sponsors from the Swannanoa Valley and beyond, according to assistant professor of exercise science Shane Kamer.
"It turned out great," said Kamer, whose freshman introduction to exercise science class organizes the race. "The rain stopped just before we started and held off long enough for us to get the race in."
Runners took off from the track in Pulliam Stadium and splashed along The Oaks Greenway adjacent to the campus. They wound their way down muddy trails before finishing where they started. The event raised $5,100 for the Olinger family, Kamer said.