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Community plans inaugural run to honor Newton resident’s legacy of love

11.27. 2017 Written By: The Neuf Memorial Run Committee

For Russ Neufeld, a Canadian who lived his last 15 years on the Kansas prairies, a winter run couldn’t be more fitting. And so on Jan. 13, 2018, nearly a year after his death, the inaugural running of The Neuf 9K and 2 mile run will honor Neufeld’s memory.

The race will start at 10 a.m. outside of Mojo’s Coffee Shop  on the campus of Bethel College, North Newton, Kansas.

The Neuf will memorialize Neufeld, who lost his battle to precursor T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma on Jan. 21, 2017. But organizers say The Neuf is more about celebrating life than mourning death. And in his last post on Facebook, Neufeld embodied this spirit: “Take all this love you have and share it,” he said. “It only multiplies and there are so many who could use it…just spread the love folks – it’s the only thing in this world that endures.”

Neufeld’s friends and family also described him as adventurous. Neufeld, a husband and father, was also an active musician, a member of Shalom Mennonite Church in Newton, and an employee and graduate of Hesston (Kansas) College. The run will raise money for a Russ Neufeld Memorial Scholarship Fund at the college.

In addition, proceeds will be donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in honor of Neufeld’s last 18 months battling lymphoma.

But loved ones say that, despite battling this disease, Neufeld never ceased to live.

“He had an infectious love and passion for life,” Kendra Neufeld, Russ’ wife, said. “And that is what is motivating his friends to hold this race in his memory. This race is to remember Russ who encouraged us all to push a little harder when we feel like giving up and to not settle for how the world is, but to make it better.”

The unique 9K distance also holds special meaning for the Neufeld family. Russ Neufeld went by the nickname “Neuf,” which led to the name for the race and the inspiration for the distance. Neuf means nine in French, represented by the “9-ball” stick shift handle on his car.

The race is open to those who knew Neufeld, but also to those who did not.

“For those on this journey, whether fighting, supporting, cheering, adjusting, mourning, or any other place on this route-this race is for you,” says Toby Tyner, a member of the race’s organizing team. “Just like Russ did in life, this race is our opportunity to extend community and to shine a little light on the path.”

All registered runners receive a timing bib, a commemorative toque (stocking cap), and post-race festivities at Mojo’s which include coffee, hot chocolate and continental breakfast items. The top three male and female finishers will receive handmade pottery mugs from Hanna Eastin pottery. Race day registration closes 15 minutes before the race and may not include an inaugural toque.

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