Sunday marked 74 days since Sierah Joughin went missing in rural Fulton County, and 69 days since her body was found.
In the 2 ½ months since her murder, the Joughin family and county residents alike have been awed numerous times by the generosity of thousands of people extending far past the Fulton County line.
Over the weekend, 1,600 people gathered on County Road 6 at Evergreen High School for the “Joggin’ for Joughin,” an event featuring a 5K walk and run, a bicycle route, and self defense classes, all in honor of Sierah Joughin.
To many in attendance, the story of how the event came to be was a prime example of the outpouring of generosity and love shown in the wake of her death.
The idea was pitched and led by 2003 Evergreen graduate Nicole Kinsman. Though not a competitive runner or an acquaintance of Joughin, Kinsman is just one of the many locals hit hard by the tragedy and seeking to give back in a big way.
“I just wanted to bring people together and show that goodwill always prevails over evil,” she said.
A mother of three daughters, Kinsman didn’t want to feel unsafe in her own community or watch people quit fulfilling their passions due to the tragedy.
“It’s so unfair for everybody to be afraid of doing what they love,” she said.
In planning the event, Kinsman brought together a close group of key supporters, many coming as strangers to each other but motivated by one common purpose: to honor Sierah. Included was Sheila Vaculik, Joughin’s mother. According to Kinsman, Vaculik was consulted with every detail, from song choice to the T-shirt design.
“Who knows Sierah better than her mother?,” Kinsman asked.
Placing first in the 5K race, with a time of 17:42, was Fayette native Bryan Stambaugh. Making the win even sweeter was Bryan’s involvement with the event. He was part of the close group of key supports that coordinated food and water donations for the event.
“I just wanted to be a part of something that really hit home for everybody,” he said.
In regards to his win, Stambaugh echoed the sentiment of many of his fellow racers and community members.
“This is definitely for a purpose,” he said. “It’s way more than just the run or the walk. It has a special meaning. In other races, you’re racing to be competitive and get a medal or whatever it may be. This is to show the family support from the community, and I think everyone did a really good job of that.”
All of the profits generated from the event will go toward the Sierah Joughin Memorial Scholarship Fund. So far, $33,000 has been raised, and with income yet to be calculated from the chicken dinner sales, T-shirt sales, and sponsorships from the event, that amount could increase as high as $40,000, Kinsman predicted.
Even more remarkable, those donations came from all over the country. Participants from California, Illinois, Ohio, and Tennessee made up the estimated 2,000 total participants and volunteers for the weekend – the biggest event ever held at Evergreen Local Schools.
In fact, in took nearly three minutes for everyone to pass the starting line in the 5K run/walk.
“People from all over just wanted to help in any way they could,” Kinsman said.
Donations are still being accepted for the scholarship fund through a Farmers and Merchants State Bank account, “Joggin 4 Joughin.” However, no matter the outcome, the organizers expressed gratefulness for the community support thus far.
“I felt proud to be able to bring people together in this way. Everyone worked so hard in putting this together. To see all these people was indescribable,” Kinsman said.
Stambaugh added, “It’s just incredible to see the community support the family like that, and it’s a special feeling to be a part of that.”
Reach Cory at firstname.lastname@example.org