Monday, 08 March 2021 17:38

Richmond Senior students raise more than $5K for Place of Grace in push-up marathon

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Place of Grace Pastor Gary Richardson walks around to get in line as Richmond Senior students participate in a push-up marathon Saturday to benefit the homeless shelter. Place of Grace Pastor Gary Richardson walks around to get in line as Richmond Senior students participate in a push-up marathon Saturday to benefit the homeless shelter. Kenny Melvin - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — Students at Richmond Senior High School raised thousands of dollars for a local homeless mission through a push-up marathon this weekend.

Members of the Beta Club and cadets with the Army JROTC Raider Battalion, along with student athletes and members of other organizations, worked together in groups doing sets of five to 10 push-ups from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Browder Park on Saturday.

The event was originally slated to take place at Place of Grace campus in East Rockingham but was moved to the park.

According to Beta Club Advisor Suzanne Hudson, the marathon idea came from realtor Wesley Jackson following a challenge he organized with Evolution Health Club owner Blake Altman and Place of Grace in February.

“The idea was to do a push-up a minute for 12 hours,” Hudson said. “We did way more than that.”

One donor had pledged $2,500 if students could complete 2,500 push-ups by noon. The push-uppers surpassed that goal, and hit 7,000 by 1 p.m.

“We are trying to motivate these kids to get their work done,” said JROTC instructor retired 1st Sgt. Aaron Light. “It’s getting more challenging the longer we stay in this (pandemic) environment.”

It wasn't just students doing push-ups: Hudson, Light and Place of Grace Pastor Gary Richardson were among the non-student participants.

Hudson said she probably did more push-ups Saturday than she ever had before in all of her life.

The event was spearheaded by senior Noah Aiken, vice president of the RSHS Beta Club. 

He secured the location, helped make videos to promote the event and recruited other organizations to help.

Hudson said around 70 students participated in the event throughout the day.

Last year, Aiken organized a virtual walk to support the Kay Yow Cancer Fund and raise money for the club’s trip to the national convention.

“Last week was actually National Beta Week and we always try to look for a project to tie into that, and so the timing was perfect,” Hudson said. 

This year’s theme, she added, is “It just takes one.”

“So it was kinda neat — one push-up, one person … and then it can kind of steamroll into something really big,” she said.

“It’s huge to see these young people to take a cause under their arm and run with it,” Richardson said Saturday. “To see this response is absolutely overwhelming.”

In 2014, Richardson helped establish a tent city on the property of New Life Church to help address the local homeless situation. Later that year, the church rented a nearby building on Airport Road to house the homeless.

Two years later, a building was constructed closer to the church and in 2018, the church swapped the property with the county for the former Rohanen Middle School.

In addition to serving as a church and homeless shelter, Place of Grace also offers an afterschool program and employment help.

Richardson said Place of Grace housed up to 64 people this winter.

“Sponsorships like this help create funding to let us go forward and do even more and more for our community,” he added. “Our goal is to give our community a hand up … Whatever our community needs, we want to become that … to make our community a great place to live.”

In all, Hudson said 10,640 push-ups were completed during the nine-hour event.

“It was a lot of fun and it was for, of course, a great cause,” Hudson said.

Hudson said Monday she wasn’t yet sure how much money was raised because some was through Place of Grace’s GoFundMe account, some was collected the day of the event and at least one local business had promised a donation.

However, she estimates that more than $5,000 was raised on Saturday.

The final total will be announced March 21.