By Sarah Kuper
For most, the Steeple2Steeple road race is a scenic run from Trinity United Methodist Church in Homewood to Canterbury United Methodist Church in Mountain Brook.
But for Rick Batson, two-time board president of the United Methodist Children’s Home, the race will take place in the Smoky Mountains rather than Over the Mountain.
“I’ve always helped in the organization and participation but I realized I wasn’t going to be there. I had picked that weekend to go to the Smokies to do some hiking,” Batson said.
Recently retired as principal of architecture firm TurnerBatson, Batson plans to hike the Classic Inca Trail in Peru in May to celebrate.
Hiking the Peruvian trail takes several days and ends at the ruins of Machu Picchu. The hike is strenuous and at a high elevation, so Batson and a few friends are headed to the Smoky Mountains to train.
But, because of Steeple2Steeple’s virtual feature, Batson still can feel connected to the race and the cause so near to his heart.
People taking part in the race virtually complete the 5K wherever they choose and email their time into the official race timers, organizers said. A special virtual link will be posted showing how their score stacks up against others.
People who run in person should sign up in advance and pick up their race bib the morning of April 22.
Batson is pleased that the race has been able to keep up with the times with the virtual option. He said it is just a small example of the way things are kept current at UMCH.
Keeping Up With the Children’s Home
The UMCH provides a group home for children who are not able to live with their families due to abuse or neglect. The scholarship program provides a stable environment for college-aged foster children.
The program will graduate its first class this year.
“We are right on the cutting edge,” Batson said. “One thing we kind of hit on is that when kids get 18 they age out. There were scholarships for higher education, but kids had to meet a certain grade level. These kids are lucky to get out of school and lucky if they have a 3.0. Now we have scholarships for room and board and other programs that help them succeed,” Batson said.
Batson has been involved with the children’s home since before he was in grade school himself.
“In the early days of my memory, my grandfather, who loved the Children’s Home, would take me and my brothers to Selma for the board meetings. My grandmother would take us out to shop while they had the meeting and after we would have a big lunch,” he said.
Batson believes that was his grandfather’s subtle way of sharing his values.
“He was planting the seeds of service. He would say, ‘These kids don’t have what you have.’” Batson said.
Batson’s father was on the nonprofit’s board as well as his grandfather. He said he is proud to follow in their footsteps.
“When people ask me, it is easy to say, ‘I love the Children’s Home,’ and then I think about it and I don’t really love the Children’s Home, I love the kids. But as a board member, I don’t meet all of the kids, so what I’ve come to love is what we are able to do for these kids,” he said.
Batson said he looks forward to the day one of the scholarship graduates comes back and wows everyone with the things he or she has accomplished.
For now, he is hoping everyone who can make it in person to the Steeple2Steeple 5K or 10K or fun run will come out. But for those who can’t, he hopes they will still commit to making a difference by joining in virtually.
The fun run and 5K begin at 8 a.m. April 22 at Trinity United Methodist Church, and the 10K begins at Trinity West Homewood.
Proceeds from the event go to support the United Methodist Children’s Home.
Registration is open online at steeple2steeple.com.