Local hero remembered with annual foot race

5K for Modrow-Snook on April 15

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  • Medals await the top runners at the 8th Annual Debbie Ann 5K Photos by Laurie Gordon

  • Tracey Mudrow-Coombs (Debbie's sister) and Kenny Mudrow (Debbie's brother) are integral in organizing the annual event

  • Runners go through the campground during last year's Debbie Ann 5K

By Laurie Gordon

— Deborah Ann Modrow-Snook was a true hero and someone who will not be forgotten Her memory lives on in the hearts and minds of her family and friends, and each April, a foot race pays tribute to this incredible mom who gave her own life to save that of her son. Don't miss the 2018 Debbie Ann 5k on Sunday, April 15th, at 11 am at Swartswood State Park, in Newton.

Modrow-Snook died in March of 2004, after diving into the icy waters of Culver Lake to rescue her five-year-old son. The first race in her memory was held in 2010, and this year will be the 8th annual Debbie Ann 5k.

Said Modrow-Snook's sister, Tracey Modrow-Coombs,"The family started the Thank You Mom Foundation in 2009 and the next year held the first 5K race. As the years started to pass it became important to find something that would help us keep her spirit and generosity alive.”

She added, “Debbie wasn’t necessarily a runner , but she did live a very active, healthy lifestyle. As a way to honor her, part of the mission of Thank You Mom is to promote health and wellness, in addition to supporting local families in need. A 5k is something that is family friendly and runners owner walkers of all fitness levels can participate.”

“Debbie was kind of a quiet person,” her sister said, “So I think she would’ve found it strange to have an event named for her! Mostly though I think she’d be proud . It was important to her to help out however she could in the community, so I believe she’d be happy that we remember her by giving back in this way.”

The Debbie Ann 5k is truly a family event. Mudrow-Coombs' brother, Kenny Mudrow, is the President of the foundation.

She said, “He’s the one who really had a plan and got everyone else on board to make it happen. The majority of the organizing, and the distribution of donations is handled as a group, which consists of Ken and his wife, Jessica; my parents; Kathy and Doug Modrow, myself and our good friend Jessica Warren. When it comes to the actual event, everyone is involved, including my husband Dave, all three of our kids, my nephew Dylan (Debbie’s son) and Kenny’s in laws, the Schiffenhaus’, as well as many friends who volunteer every year.”

The original out-and-back course that utilized Duck Pond trail was changed after 2015 when the park apparently received complaints about traffic being held up while runners crossed the street. “We had an unseasonably warm day that year and a large number of same day registrations,” Mudrow-Coombs said. “I don’t think we expected such a large turn out . Since then they asked us to change the course and limit same day registrations. We are considering changing the course again, but haven’t been able to measure out other options yet with all the snow still on the ground.”

Gemini Restorations and Newton Sparta Pediatric dentistry have been two of the race's biggest sponsors the last few years. Salt and Andre’s have contributed since the first year. LTC Bob (Bob Westbrook) has also been a sponsor for a number of years.

“He was a childhood friend of Debbie’s,” Mudrow-Coombs said. “He grew up here at Paulinskill Lake in Stillwater. He currently lives in Illinois where he he is a financial and insurance consultant for long term care. Even though he doesn’t live locally he still has friends and family in the area and had been a supporter of The Debbie Ann 5k for several years."

The race's beneficiary, the Thank You Mom Foundation, has donated to Project Self Sufficiency, and Stillwater Fire and Rescue. With the exception of those two groups the donations are typically to local families in need.

“Last year we bought Shop Rite gift cards at Christmas time for nine local families, and donated to families struggling to rebuild after a home fire, a car accident, a traumatic injury, and a cancer diagnosis,” Mudrow-Coombs said. “Typically we are put in contact with a family through a friends recommendation . Occasionally we learn of someone needing assistance through a go-fund-me or similar type page. We usually try to contact families directly with a donation though so they receive the full donation and don’t lose a fee to the site.”

As to the actual race, Mudrow-Snook said, “I think there are a few things that set our race apart. Most 5ks are early on a Saturday. We hold ours on Sunday, this was originally because my kids were involved in high school sports which made Saturdays difficult, so I think we appeal to a slightly different audience. The course is the most scenic ones around with views of the lake most of the way. We have been lucky to have DJ Kirk Kandel with is every year, and our trophies are unique. They are original carving done by Brett from Freehand Custom Carvings. Finally, we end the event with a barbecue under the pavilion which is free to all participants. It’s just a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.”

New this year, The Thank You Mom Foundation will be offering a scholarship to a graduating Kittatinny Regional High School senior, thanks to money raised from the Debbie Ann 5k. More info and an application can be found on their website. Also this year the race orgainzers are offering a discount to anyone who registers for the Healthy Kids Running Series. Once you register a child for that program you will receive a discount code to register for the Debbie Ann 5k.

“She as an unforgettable woman, who grew up in New Jersey and did it all,” said Kenny Mudrow. “My sister traveled the world hiking mountain tops and camping in the banks and valleys. She played card games with movie stars and musicians in Hollywood, and her adventurous side even took her skydiving.”

Throughout her journeys, Mudrow-Snook was constantly searching for ways that she could help others. She was dedicated to a number of causes and always wanted to help. She believed in living beyond her life and did so by donating her time and efforts to a variety of charitable organizations. She donated professional clothing to single women for job interviews and coats to the homeless for warmth during the cold winter months. Mudrow-Snook also had her heart set on a 600 mile bike ride for AIDs awareness. She also worked with was Project Self-Sufficiency, and the T.Y.M. Foundation has continued her legacy and has donated money to the cause.

Above all, Mudrow-Snook was a great mother. In March of 2004, she took on the icy waters before her lakefront home to rescue her young son. Neighboring backup was only a minute behind to assist in the rescue before she slipped away. Mudrow-Snook was full of life. Even though she was a hometown, small town girl, she also experienced things around the world.

For further information and to register for the 2018 Debbie Ann 5k, visit: visit: www.thankyoumomfoundation.org. On race day, check in will begin at 9:30 am. From 10:45 to 11 am there will be group photography and the National Anthem. The race and BBQ will start at 11 am, and awards will be held at noon. Please note that due to park policies at Swartswood, day of race registration will close at 10 am. It is recommended that you pre-register on line.

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