(April 2021) On a chilly April 3 morning, 240 runners gathered in Waynesville for the inaugural Mighty Four Miler, a race honoring the life and legacy of Riley Howell and raising $6,860 for the Riley Howell Foundation Fund (RHFF). Another 160 runners gathered for its sister race, the Gateway to the Smokies Half Marathon.
In April 2019, Waynesville native Riley Howell was killed in a school shooting at UNC Charlotte while tackling the gunman to save the lives of fellow students. Fellow student Reed Parlier was also killed. Howell, a runner, loved the outdoors.
In 2018, the Haywood Chamber of Commerce decided to discontinue the Gateway to the Smokies Half Marathon. Kevin Fitzgerald, who had been involved with that race since its inception, thought Glory Hound Events might want to take it on. When Riley and others were murdered in Charlotte, the decision was made to bring back the half marathon and to add the four-miler in Riley's honor.
“When something like the shooting at UNC Charlotte occurs, most of us feel helpless,” said Greg Duff, Glory Hound Events Director. “Unlike Sandy Hook, Columbine or the seemingly countless others that have happened, this one hit close to home. I know the Howells and remember seeing Riley as a child. I also know how to put on races so doing one to honor Riley was an easy decision. We decided to name it the Mighty Four Miler and to donate all profits to the foundation.”
“We were set to produce the race in April 2020 but then COVID hit and we postponed the race to the fall, then again to April 2021,” he continued. “We had grand plans for a large event with a pre-race ceremony to honor Riley and the other victims but outside gathering restrictions allowed us to safely host the race but no other festivities. We were thrilled to sell out both races and produce an event that was both fun and raised more money than we anticipated.”
The Town of Waynesville and Haywood County and the runners who participated sponsored the Mighty Four Miler. “We know the funds we raise will be put to good use,” said Duff. “The problem of gun violence continues to rear its ugly head, and we pledge to continue to honor Riley’s legacy by producing the Mighty Four Miler and Gateway to the Smokies Half Marathon for the foreseeable future.”
RHFF makes grants to organizations that provide support to victims of gun violence and help them meet immediate needs. Recent grants supported the Ecusta Trail Project, North Carolina Outward Bound School, All Souls Counseling Center, UNC Charlotte Foundation and Gun Violence Survivors Foundation. Learn more.