When Rhonda Morrow makes her way through the Bear Crawl 5K at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park in Marion on Nov. 21, she and nearly 300 of her fellow runners will face a test of will.
But adversity is nothing new for the 53-year-old grandmother , once a smoker and overweight. She’s pleased that the beneficiary of the Bear Crawl is Alive Cubed, the organization that inspired her to live a healthier life.
Morrow met Alive Cubed through Kevin Gauthier’s gym in Marion. Gauthier, the director of the Bear Crawl, put Morrow in touch with Alive Cubed founder Alex Garcia.
Garcia, who owns Jellystone Park, created the nonprofit after a boy nearly drown in the park pool two years ago. For a couple of tense minutes, the lifeguard performed CPR and brought the boy back. Garcia, then working long hours that kept him away from his family, was changed forever.
“That was the closest to death that I’ve ever been,” he said, “and it made me think that it was important to re-establish balance in my life.” He decided to find a way to acknowledge everyday people in the community who do great deeds.
“Alive Cubed is about helping people find the ‘why’ in their lives, the purpose,” Garcia said. “We do workshops, we host adventures and we host races. But throughout that journey we found that there are people that have a hard time living their lives to the fullest because of different circumstances.”
Last year, Garcia’s organization funded 10 “bucket list”experiences for people. Unintentionally, its creation has had a ripple effect - several Alive Cubed beneficiaries have established other fundraising ventures.
Morrow was among those whose adventures were funded by Alive Cubed. The organization sent her and her family to Morganton to go ziplining.
“I never thought I would be able to do it because I was an overweight grandmother who was also a smoker. I also wasn’t very active,” she said. “I had always wanted to try it, and Alex ended up funding the trip down there for my family to go. It was an experience I’ll never forget.”
The experience reaffirmed Morrow’s desire to further her commitment to a healthier lifestyle. She credits her involvement with Garcia’s organization with changing her life. Now she wants to help people achieve their own goals. “I want people to see what a blessing it is to go out there and experience things,” she said.
She herself is preparing to run the Bear Crawl, a type of race she would not have believed possible a few years ago.
“I’m running this race because I can,” she said, “because I’m capable and I’m able to push myself to these limits. And I get such a rush out of it.
“To be an older woman that has struggled all of her life with smoking and being overweight, and finally be able to do something like this, why would I not?”
Register for the Bear Crawl 5K, one-mile family fun run and a half-mile toddler race at alivecubed.org/bearcrawl.