Love — it's the one thing in the world that endures, in the words of the late Russ Neufeld.
Friends and family are looking to spread that message and inspire a little love in Neufeld's memory in the Newton community he called home for 15 years with the inaugural Neuf 9K and two-mile run on Jan. 13, 2018.
The race's name and unique distance comes from Neufeld's nickname, "Neuf," which means "nine" in French — and to listen to his friends and co-organizers of the event, a lot more of his characteristics will be reflected in the event.
"Russ was like glue. He brought people together. It was amazing how many people he knew. People just kind of gravitated towards him. This kind of fits right in with who Russ was," said race co-organizer David LeVan.
"This race is to remember Russ, who encouraged us all to push a little harder when we feel like giving up and to not settle for how the world is, but to make it better," said Neufeld's wife, Kendra. "It means a lot to be able to carry something forward. I think that Russ had a lot of impact on this world while he was here, and to be able to continue that is very meaningful. I think it's an event that he would've loved being a part of and something where we can still kind of push out his presence in this world and his effect on the world and his community."
LeVan was also a former colleague of Neufeld's at Hesston College, noting he brought people together on campus in the Hesston community, as well as Newton. The Neuf was a way to continue that and evolved from an informal run LeVan and fellow co-organizers Toby Tyner and Derek Yoder initially put on in October 2015 to help raise funds to assist with Neufeld's medical costs in his battle with cancer.
On top of being an opportunity to bring the entire community together in a "life-giving" event, LeVan noted from the start the group always had larger community goals in mind as well — with a focus on raising funds for both the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and a Russ Neufeld Memorial Scholarship fund, the latter speaking even more truly to Neufeld's spirit.
"It goes to people who might otherwise not be able to attend Hesston College," LeVan said, "because that's what we know Russ would've wanted."
Race day will be almost the one-year anniversary of Neufeld's passing. LeVan said the process of organizing the event has given his friends a chance to keep Neufeld in their thoughts — and believe this race will truly reflect his positive impact on the community.
Beyond that, co-organizers are hoping participants will take the spirit of the event forward and help spread the message Neufeld lived for in the community and further after the race.
"I hope that they're able to take away the knowledge that our lives here are really meaningful to each other and the more we can give of ourselves and open ourselves up into relationship with others, the more impact we have on ourselves and others," Kendra said. "That's really what life is about; it's about community with others and participating and being a part of their journey."
Entry fee is $35 for the 9K and $25 for the two-mile run, with both starting at 10 a.m. Jan. 13 just outside Mojo's Coffee Shop on the Bethel College campus (300 E. 27th St., North Newton). Fees will increase by $5 on race day and registration will be open until 15 minutes prior to the start of the race. For more information or to register, visit runtheneuf.neuf.ca.