2016-07-28 / Front Page

Run for Cash will end next year on special anniversary

By Molly Lovell-Keely
Managing Editor

Run for Cash founder Nancy Lee Kelley said her health and other reasons led to the decision to end the event with a celebration next year. Kelley said she hopes it will continue in some way. (Courtesy photo) Run for Cash founder Nancy Lee Kelley said her health and other reasons led to the decision to end the event with a celebration next year. Kelley said she hopes it will continue in some way. (Courtesy photo) OLD ORCHARD BEACH – A race that pays homage to a fallen soldier will end next year on the 13th anniversary of the man’s death.

The last Run for Cash Memorial 5K, named after Capt. Christopher Cash, will be held June 24 in Old Orchard Beach, where it began 12 years ago when his mother, Nancy Lee Kelley, needed a way to channel her grief.

“It’s going to be a celebration,” said Kelley, who will turn 70 next year; Cash, an Old Orchard Beach High School graduate, would have been 50 years old.

Cash, while serving with the National Guard, was killed in 2004 in Baqubah, Iraq, in a gun battle against more than 150 insurgents. He left behind two sons.

The event has raised more than $40,000 in scholarships for area students and military families, but Kelley said attendance at this year’s race – 232 people registered – was down compared to past years.

Nancy Lee Kelley and Spangle, the Run for Cash mascot. (Courtesy photo) Nancy Lee Kelley and Spangle, the Run for Cash mascot. (Courtesy photo) “We always had more than 300,” she said.

There were other signs, however, that June 2017 should be the race’s final year.

“The town had given me a permit good for the last four years so I didn’t have to come before the council each year, the last one in 2017,” she said, admitting that the race gets harder for her every year.

“I do this whole event from my kitchen table,” she said, adding that she and her husband, Bob, who is 72, both have health problems.

Kelley has had lupus since she was 28 and is now in the beginning stages of kidney disease.

“With lupus, your body breaks down,” she said. “I don’t want to do the race year after year and have to go out as a sick old woman.”

Kelley said she’s going to miss the event.

“It’ll be like cutting off my arms,” she said. “Like losing part of my life.”

One word in a statement she released on the event website (runforcash.org), however, gives hope that an event in her son’s name may continue.

She wrote: “It is with mixed emotions we announce that June 24, 2017, will be the last sanctioned ‘Run for Cash’ 5K/3 mile walk.”

“If people want to reserve that weekend of Chris’s death and plan something, either a reunion cookout or a race early one morning on the beach, I will give it to the people,” she said.

Kelley made the announcement about next year at the 12th annual event earlier this summer.

“I said to Bob on Friday morning, ‘I think I’m going to announce it Saturday. I’m not sure how I’m going to do it, but if it’s God’s will, it’s just going to come out,’” she said.

And it did.

“People were crying with me afterward. They didn’t want it to end,” she said. “The police, fire, rescue have always been major supporters.”

Assistant Town Manager Louise Reid was also an event supporter throughout its years.

“Although I never had the opportunity to meet Christopher, I have come to know and respect Nance and Bob Kelley,” Reid said. “The effort they have put into the race and the benefit to so many young students is something that will remain in the memory book. Christopher’s spirit lives on with the work that Nance and Bob do in other efforts as they use their talents in the area of veteran’s affairs.” Kelley said founding the Run for Cash was her saving grace after losing her son.

“It’s been a huge part of my life, but I want next year’s race to be the most wonderful, loving reunion race ever,” she said.

Kelley said people used to criticize Christopher’s death.

“People hated George Bush. The way I looked at it, he was my son’s commanding officer. My son was following orders like everyone who takes an oath to be in the military.”

People would say Chris never should have been in the military in the first place. It used to get my dander up. I’d simply excuse myself. I wasn’t going to get into a fight with anybody. My heart told me not to.”

Now, Kelley said, it’s not so much the military that’s a hot button issue.

“ISIS has brought terrorists into every household, whether you want to admit it or not. I don’t even hear concerns about the military anymore,” she said.

Kelley said the memorial race has never been about Christopher Cash, but what he stood for.

“He loved kids, he loved education – he had two master’s degrees – and he worked a full-time job when he was in the Army National Guard,” she said. “He loved his boys, who are out of college now – he was so devoted.”

A number of local businesses have supported the Run For Cash from the beginning and will be recognized at next year’s event. Major Gen. Bill Libby, former adjutant general of the Maine National Guard, will pull the starter gun at next year’s race.

“He has a very special place in my heart,” Kelley said, adding that Libby helped get approval for Cash’s dog tags to hang in the Hall of Flags in Augusta.

Spangle, the Run for Cash mascot, even has future plans.

“The Freeport Flag Ladies have invited him up to a 9/11 ceremony – we go every year,” Kelley said. “They requested Spangle again – Spangle does a great salute.”

Kelley currently works eight hours a day at Len Libby in Scarborough, which keeps her busy. In addition, she is chaplain with Gold Star Mothers, and is involved in Hugs of Love and Wreaths Across America. Still, Kelley said she hopes to put her energy into another organization that benefits military.

In past years, Saco’s Arthur B. Huot House for veterans has benefited from race proceeds. Next year, Maine Veterans Homes will be a beneficiary.

“I love to give back,” Kelley said. “There’s a happiness to it, the race ending, but there’s really a gut sadness too. It’s almost like waiting for something to die.”

For the past 12 years, on race day, Kelley opens the gym at Old Orchard Beach High School at 6 a.m. and reflects on the event and her son’s life. Next year, she said, will be very emotional.

“I’ve gotten so strong from this race.”

Return to top