A total of 484 people registered for the Third Annual LCpl. Leon B. Deraps Memorial Scholarship Fund Five-Mile Walk/Run/Ride held Saturday, May 7. The starting point was Advanced Chimney Techniques, Inc., Jamestown, and ended at Cedron Catholic Church. Students from Jamestown C-I School are chosen for the scholarship which is in honor of Deraps, a Jamestown graduate who was killed in action while serving in Iraq. Omie Johnson, Deraps' sister; who has helped organize the event with Kim Barbour, said this year was very significant as it has been five years since Deraps' death.
"It amazes and touches me that the walk/run is growing," Johnson said. Brandon DeWitt, Leon's rack mate during boot camp, spoke. He came from Chicago, Ill., with Leon's other friend from Engineering School at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Noah Hitz, who flew from Oregon. This was the second year they attended. We had over 480 register. Nathan Block, our neighbor, flew home to participate in the walk/run/ride. He is a Sergeant in the Marines and is stationed at Miramar, Calif. He had just returned home from a tour in Afghanistan. We had Leon's Lt. from Iraq, Ed Walsh, who ran in Massachusetts. Other friends, Jeff Gerlach ran in Nevada; Craig Fryer ran in Southern California; Leon's classmate Jill Trees ran in Northern California; and a family friend ran in Michigan. Three people from a distributor of Chimney Liner ran in Kansas. Finally, Leon's recruiter from the Marine Corps, Dave Priotte, ran in California."
Johnson read a letter from a friend that was so touched by the visitation and funeral she wrote a letter to the family. It highlighted all the emotions and patriotism and closeness of the Jamestown community and surrounding area.
"The letter brought out the point of why we continue to do this event not only for Leon but for all our military," Johnson said. "The walk/run/ride is very important to our family, it was set up to honor our fallen hero Leon. We wanted to direct the sadness of our loss into something positive which is also why we hold it so close to the anniversary date and Mother's Day."
Johnson said one of her favorite parts of the event is seeing the children riding bikes, walking and running while smiling and having a good time. The event received many great donations including $646 from the Marine Care Package Project, many homemade cookies from churches, organizations and individuals, hot dog buns from Burgher Haus and water donated by Kenny and Caleb Jones among others. Johnson added she would love to see the event grow and build until they are able to give out a full-ride scholarship.
"I cannot say enough about how much I appreciate all the supporters of this event," Johnson said. "It leaves me speechless. How could any one not be honored beyond belief by their support. There are so many donators and volunteers who should all be appreciated because we could not get this done without them. Our goal is to give out as many scholarships as we can. The criteria is writing an essay on being a good citizen."
For more information about the event or scholarship, call 660-849-2525.
For more photos check out the May 11 issue of the California Democrat.