Keathley spoke at the group’s inaugural 5K race in 2008. This year’s event made for the group’s fourth annual race and although the professional coach and former East Kentucky Miner head man is the one usually making an impact in such events, that wasn’t the case this year as two of Keathley’s children decided to step forward and make a difference at the event held on April 9 in Pikeville. Jarrell Keathley, a 12-year-old who attends Moore Traditional School in Louisville, and his younger sister, Kaitlyn Keathley, a 9-year-old Pikeville Elementary student, informed their dad of their interest in participating in the 5K walk/run. “When they told me they wanted to compete in the race, I was pretty excited about them wanting to be a part of the event and the fact they wanted to run in such a difficult race was very impressive,” Keathley said.
The Big Sandy Area Child Advocacy Center, also known as Judi's Place, began its race at 9 a.m. that morning and 19 minutes, 30 seconds later the first competitor came across the finish line in the 3.1 mile run. With almost 200 competitors, 12-year-old Jarrell Keathley surprised the crowd and spectators when he followed a short 3 minutes later with an official time of 22 minutes, 29 seconds. Jarrell Keathley won his age group of 10-14 year olds and finished as one of the top 12 runners overall.
“I couldn’t have been more happy for him, to see him put in such a strong effort,” Keathley said. “When he crossed the finish line I felt extremely proud to be his father. He and his sister Kaitlyn trained every day for this event. They ran 2-3 miles daily, sometimes more in Jarrell’s case. These are the type of things you like to see your kids gravitate to. A lot of times, in today’s society, children are focused on TV and video games. To see my children actively pursue something with that type of passion made this year’s event for Judi’s Place a little more special for me.”
Keathley has dedicated many hours to the cause and hopes more people will get involved.
“Child abuse awareness is something I feel everyone should be involved with,” Keathley said. “Over the years I have volunteered time in hopes of raising awareness as well as partnering with my community to make a difference in this area. I feel strongly about this cause and to see my kids form a passion to help others is something I’m very proud of.”
There wasn’t an age group for nine-year-old Kaitlyn Keathley to compete in, but she ran anyway. She was one of the top competitors among children. Young Kaitlyn, however, got lost in the event at the two-mile point.
“Kaitlyn gave an amazing effort and was a true champion even though she got lost in the run,” joked Keathley. “Kaitlyn ran almost two miles, which is excellent for any nine-year-old child.”
Director Laura Kretzer gave the young runner a special award at the end of the event. The award recognized her for her hard work. An unknown winner showed an act of kindness by donating his medal back in order to recognize Kaitlyn. Coach Keathley believes this year’s event was the most impressive of the four events yet.
“It was a very special day for all involved,” Keathley added. “Many donations were made and a lot of people showed up for the event. If I had to guess, it was probably the biggest turnout yet for the 5K race in the four years that it has been held.”
Former Kentucky First Lady Judi Patton serves on the board at the center, which provides many free services to physically and sexually abused children. Those services include counseling, medical exams and prevention education.
“That's how our center stays open, through donations and the passion and love of our community," said Patton.
"This is by far our largest year yet,” said Judi's Place Executive Director Laura Kretzer. “We just hope to continue it further."
At the conclusion of the event, everyone received a pinwheel, which is a symbol for a happy and secure childhood for every child.
Keathley hopes the event will get bigger each year.
“I hope by parents and their children seeing what a 12-year old and a 9-year-old can do that it will inspire more people to show up to next years event,” Keathley said. “Judi’s Place is a great organization and they provide many important services. I would encourage everyone to donate their time or resources to this facility. I thought this years event was a big success and my congrats go to Judi Patton and Director Laura Kretzer.”
Kretzer stated that the event raised more than $6,500 for Judi's Place. The two younger Keathleys also commented after the event.
“I really wanted to help kids and I hope other kids my age will do the same,” stated nine-year-old Kaitlyn. “I’m glad I got to run and I’m proud of my big brother Jarrell for winning.”
“I worked really hard for this race and ran 3 miles almost every day,” Jarrell commented excitedly after his big win. “It was really hard some days, but my family really helped me and I couldn’t have done it without them. It makes me feel really good helping kids who are abused. I hope to see everybody next year.”