Local group awards $13,000 in scholarships

A total of $30,000 from the Spa Running Festival’s proceeds were donated to three organizations, one of which awarded scholarships to 13 area students.

The running festival, which celebrated its 40th year of the Spa 10K in partnership with the 100th anniversary of Hot Springs National Park, presented $13,000 to the Spa Pacers Buzz Wilson Scholarship Program, the largest of this year’s recipients. Adult and Teen Challenge of Arkansas received $10,000 while Friends of Hot Springs National Park was presented wtih $7,000.

Cindy Baswell, the race director, said that the Spa Running Festival had “over 1,800 runners and walkers attending representing 26 states” for the 2021 race.

Buzz Wilson, the scholarship program’s namesake, was an active member of the Spa Pacers for many years and served as club president. In 1996, Wilson climbed Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the continental United States, but he died suddenly of a heart attack “a few weeks later,” according to a release from the running festival.

The scholarship program was to recognize Wilson and his created contributions to the running community, and this year 13 students were awarded scholarships due to their involvement “in the sport or running and/or fitness and who exemplify the principles” in the Spa Pacers’ mission statement. Those receiving scholarships were Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts’ Mai Nobles, Cutter Morning Star’s Sierra Wilmath, Hot Springs’ Hannah Newcomb, Jessieville’s Isaac Gass and Noah Zetts, Lakeside’s Emma Belic and Dylan Dew, Lake Hamilton’s Evan Armitage, Connor Ashley , Zeke McCain and Ethan Smith and two area home-schooled students Brayden and Barrett James.

“Because we are getting such a large sum of money, even though it’s individually $1,000 to each person, collectively we’re giving out a lot of money, so we do have a little — we just don’t hand them $1,000 and say , ‘Go have fun with it,'” Baswell said. “We have implemented where they have to present to (scholarship committee chair) Lorri (Saracini) their acceptance into school. So, you know, they send … some kind of validation where they’ve enrolled in college, and then we will fund the money to them.”

Baswell said that the scholarship program has come a long way from its beginnings. Since 2009, the program has been awarded over $94,000 in scholarships.

“Back when we started it, there wasn’t a lot of applicants, and we sometimes, we barely gave $500 away,” she said. “I hate to say that, but that was really the case. But the race wasn’t making that kind of money back then either. You have to keep it all in perspective.”

Baswell said that the schools usually receive the scholarship applications sometime in January, and the scholarships are usually announced in late April.

At one point, only students who were members of the Spa Pacers were allowed to apply, that requirement is no longer the case. Baswell that while some athletes are members of the club, some past athletes joined just to be explained eligible for the scholarship.

“They would join and be a Spa Pacer member for one year, and then they wouldn’t rejoin,” Baswell said. “So we took that out of the requirements. It’s not necessarily they have pretty much to be a Spa Pacer member or are involved with the Spa Pacers, but, you know, those that are active in the cross country, or the track team, you know, the majority of them will at least run in the Spa Running Festival.

Baswell said that this year’s scholarship award was the largest amount given, at least since she started keeping records in 2009.

“In 2019, we gave $12,000,” she said. “In 2018, we gave $11,000; 2020 was when COVID hit, so our net profit wasn’t as much so we cut it back that year, but usually, it’s that $10,000 range. That again, it just depends on our overall net profit from the race.”

The scholarship fund and the Adult and Teen Challenge program are usually awarded roughly the same amount, Baswell said, but with such a large number of runners graduating from local schools, the scholarship program received a larger amount.

Adult and Teen Challenge of Arkansas is a non-profit organization that has had a longstanding partnership with the Spa Running Festival that began with former executive director Tim Culbreth and continues with his successor Stephan DeLorenzo. The organization helps the Spa Running Festival with race day logistics, including delivering supplies to aid stations, marking the courses, registration and more.

Friends of Hot Springs National Park is a non-profit organization dedicated to the development and stewardship of public parks in the Hot Springs area.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.