If patriotism was a commodity, this former mill town might be known for it as much as it once was for textile manufacturing.
The town with two parks dedicated to those who served in the military is now home to a monthly event that gives residents the opportunity to express their support and honor loved ones who put their lives on the line in the U.S. Armed Forces.
“It really is a great way to relieve stress and clear your mind,” said Catherine Foerster, owner of Fleet Feet Sports, who, along with Todd Puhrmann, the store’s footwear buyer, helped organize the Fort Mill chapter of a nonprofit group called Wear Blue: Run to Remember.
Wear Blue began as a different kind of support group for some soldiers’ wives and has become a national phenomenon. The group holds regularly scheduled meet-ups to run or walk. It’s open to anyone who wants to participate regardless of any affiliation or connection to the military. There’s no cost involved and no fundraising, but participants can purchase special T-shirts with all of the proceeds going to Gold Star families.
The runs typically go from one to three miles and walkers are always welcome.
“This really is a great way to bring the community together – people from all walks of life,” said Catherine’s husband, Dave Foerster.
The Fort Mill meet-ups are held the third Thursday of each month downtown in Veterans Park on North White Street at lower Main. The first one, which Foerster said attracted around 40 runners, was held in March. The next one is April 21.
Wear Blue was started by Lisa Hallett, who got other Army wives together for informal runs while their husbands were deployed in Afghanistan. The meet-ups took on a different meeting after Hallett’s husband, Capt. John Hallett, and others in his unit were killed in 2009 during the deployment.
A subsequent TED Talk by Lisa Hallett about Wear Blue caught the attention of Luke Rowe, vice president of business development at Fleet Feet Sports’ corporate office. Rowe, a retired Marine, was aware that Catherine Foerster unexpectedly lost a brother who had served in the military and thought she might be interested in hearing Hallett talk about how she decided to deal with her own grief.
“Luke knew my backstory and he knew it would resonate with me,” Foerster said.
“(Hallett) did an awesome TED Talk. Her story was very powerful.”
There are 40 Wear Blue locations nationwide and three in Germany, but the one in fort Mill is the only one not in the vicinity of a military base.
“The fact they gave us a chapter is pretty remarkable,” Catherine Foerster said.
“We invite runners and walkers and all people in our community who would like to show support and honor to our military,” she said.
Michael Harrison: firstname.lastname@example.org, @MikeHarrisonFMT
Up coming meet-ups
The next Wear Blue: Run to Remember meet-up is 6:30 p.m. April 21 at Veterans Park in Fort Mill. The group is also holding a special Memorial Day run at 7 a.m. May 30 that will begin in Memorial Park in Tega Cay and end at Veterans Park (approximately six miles).
For more information about the Fort Mill chapter, email email@example.com or go to the Run to Remember-Fort Mill Meet Up page on Facebook. To learn more about Wear Blue, go to wearblueruntoremember.org.