MSD Heroes Challenge Organizers: Manny Mair, Amy Kenny and Doug Eaton. Not pictured is Debra Hixon.

By Jill Fox

To create an experience to unify the community after the school shooting last February, three Parkland activists are planning a family event to encourage community-building through teamwork.

The committee, consisting of Douglas Eaton, Debra Hixon, Amy Kenny and Manny Mair have organized the MSD Heroes Challenge –  a two-mile obstacle course race for athletes of all ages and skill levels which will place on February 23, at both the Parkland Equestrian Center and Liberty Park.

Eaton, who lives in Parkland with his wife, Cheryl and daughters Lizzie and Caroline, who both attend Marjory Stoneman Douglas, explained how they settled on an obstacle course for mixed reasons.

“Heroes overcome obstacles and never quit,” said Eaton. “These obstacles symbolize what people have to overcome in an event like that or in real life. We wanted the walls we will climb over, under and around to symbolize the obstacles we face and overcome.

Other organizers include Hixon, whose husband, Chris Hixon, the schools’s athletic director, bravely sacrificed his life to save students, and Mair, founder of One to One Fitness in Coral Springs/Parkland.

The committee members planned to work together to make certain the event was inclusive and encompassed many different communities throughout Parkland.

Team members have already committed to attend: from different gyms and schools outside of Parkland, teachers from variety of schools, and specially-abled athletes, such as the Parkland Buddies.

Of course, MSD students and staff will play a large role in the Heroes Challenge.

The day prior to the event, students and their families are invited to the Parkland Equestrian Center to help decorate the 17 walls that will be used in the race in memory of the 17 lost angels. The organizers wanted the walls that the participants climb over, under and around to symbolize the obstacles people face and overcome.

“Our vision for this is for our community to come together as a collective extended family for both the families of those lost, as well as the survivors –  and by survivors, we mean everyone else,” said Eaton.

For the youngest of heroes, there will be a separate kiddie course, as well as a 1K flat run, for those who go fast or slow.

A percentage of the proceeds from the event will go to YOGA4MSD, a nonprofit founded by Kenny, a yoga teacher, who will lead a heroes yoga class following the race. Her mission is to bring yoga, mindfulness and self-care to more students and send them out into the world with these tools in the hope of creating a more peaceful planet.

Other proceeds from the event will provide two $1,000 scholarships to MSD seniors who are showing leadership skills in making the community safer, as well as to support the efforts of Stand with Parkland, The National Association of Families for Safe Schools, and several other nonprofits.

The cost for the Heroes Challenge is $25 per individual, and $15 per person participating in a team. All MSD teachers and students can sign-up at a discounted rate of $5. Teams of 25 or more who register by February 9, will receive custom T-shirts with their logos on them.

Volunteers are still needed to set-up, paint, and break down the event. Sign-up here.

The event will be held Saturday, February 23. Registration opens at 6:30 a.m. and the race starts at 7:30 a.m. Participants may register for an 11:15 a.m. yoga-only session with Kenny for a small donation, or as part of their race package. For more information and to register as an individual or team, please visit: MSD Heroes Challenge.