The Jackson 5 song “ABC” boomed around the intramural fields as Andy Derryberry, the oldest participant at the “Show Us Your Shoes” run, crossed the finish line.
The 66-year-old runner took a small sip of water as he massaged the residual limb attached to his prosthetic leg. Derryberry’s right leg was amputated after he was hit by an SUV while riding his motorcycle.
This accident is what connected him with Molly Offstein's story. Offstein is a cross country runner who was hit by car while on a run last spring as a freshman at Elon University.
“I know a little bit about trauma, so I have that kinship with Molly,” Derryberry said. “Her whole story is just the kind of thing that I felt would be a really good thing to participate in.”
This connection is what made Derryberry drive 500 miles from his home in Nashville, Tennessee, to run a 5K in honor of a complete stranger on April 29.
Planning the run
From start to finish, the entire event was organized by students in a 400-level event management class for their final project.
Once the idea of planning a philanthropic run in support of Offstein was pitched to the group of students, everyone agreed Instantly they should do it.
Senior Sydney Busa, an Elon volleyball player, was part of the team that organized the event.
“It hit home for a lot of us. We are all student athletes,” Busa said. “While we may not have known Molly personally, she was part of our family … and just knowing we are still here and supporting her could go a long way.”
Putting together the event took several months of planning, during which the students were able to secure sponsorships from both Adidas and Gate City.
Once the date of the run was scheduled for the end of April, the student group began a huge marketing push to garner as much interest in the event as possible.
To market the event, flyers were posted all over Elon’s campus. Every athletic team was contacted, as well as other organizations. The event was also posted on the “Show Us Your Shoes” Facebook group, a page created by Offstein’s mother to update people on her daughter’s condition.
Derryberry is one of almost 8,000 members from across the country that have used the Facebook group to post photos and videos expressing their support for the recovering runner.
It was through this Facebook group that Derryberry heard about the 5K run at Elon.
On the day
Derryberry joined more than 100 other participants of all ages at the starting line.
Members from multiple sports teams and other on-campus organizations participated in the run.
While registration for the event was free, the student planners encouraged participants to donate to the Offsteins to support Molly's medical costs. The group also raised money by selling T-shirts and hosting a raffle before the start of the run.
While not all of the women’s cross country team could participate as runners during the event, many worked as volunteers.
Sophomore Emily Smith was one of the women’s cross country team members who volunteered during the run.
“Molly is our teammate and we wanted to support her in any way that we can,” Smith said. “She means so much to us and we want to show that everything we do here is for Molly. So we are just trying our best to support her, whether it is during practice or here volunteering to help with the race.”
While multiple teammates waited at the finish line, junior and women’s cross country runner Coralea Geraniotis chose to run the race instead.
“I wanted to run with my teammates and just take some time to think about Molly and her presence on the team,” Geraniotis said.
Seeing the run bring together such a large group of student athletes is what Geraniotis loved the most.
“It was such a fun time to have athletes from different teams and other people on campus come here and celebrate Molly,” Geraniotis said. “A 5K can be really painful for some people, but it was nice to see people dedicate some time to her.”
There is no doubt in Geraniotis’ mind that Offstein would be thrilled to hear about the 5K hosted in her support.
“She would love it, especially because it is a 5K. She loves running, and running was a big part of her life,” Geraniotis said. “It would really make her day that so many people came out to support her.”
Altogether the event raised more than $1,000 for the Offstein family.
According to senior Luke Pacella, who helped plan the event, the student group hopes to send the funds to the Offsteins in the form of a check on May 14, the final day of exams.
This check will add to the other funds that have been raised to support the Offstein family. Several GoFundMe pages have been made to support her cause, the most successful one raising almost $53,000.
Road to Recovery
Offstein’s accident on March 6, 2017, left her with multiple serious injuries, including a traumatic brain injury. She was put in a medically-induced coma for almost four months. After waking up in July 2017, her family began to make preparations for her return home to Frostburg, Maryland.
She made hat journey home in August 2017.
Ever since her return to Frostburg, her mother, Laura Byrnes, has been regularly posting updates on her daughter's condition on the “Show Us Your Shoes” Facebook page.
Byrnes’ posts usually include photos and videos of Offstein’s progress as well as detailed explanations of where she is on her path to recovery.
A post from Byrnes on Dec. 7, 2017, informed the Facebook group that Offstein had been admitted to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Mercy to receive “intensive therapy.” Byrnes posted that “this is an important pit stop on her road to recovery.”
It’s a recovery Derryberry is sure she will make.
When reflecting upon the accident that took his right leg, Derryberry recalled a lesson that he gained from the experience.
“Every day is a new day. Everything tends to get better even when it’s the worst possible thing,” Derryberry said. “Maybe in small ways better, but still better. You just got to keep looking forward and working hard.”
He hopes Offstein learns the lesson faster than he did.
Derryberry looks forward to reading the future posts on the “Show Us Your Shoes” Facebook page that will inform him of Offstein’s recovery.
“She is tougher than me,” Derryberry said. “So, if I can do it, she can do it.”
As Derryberry readjusted his bright orange University of Tennessee Knoxville hat, he took one last sip of water before preparing for the long ride back to Nashville.
As he left for his car, the song “ABC” was still playing on the speakers — “Sit yourself down, take a seat, all you gotta do is repeat after me.”