Fighting what some would deem an insurmountable battle, East Side Elementary School Principal Josh Wandell stood tall and proud Saturday morning as more than 1,000 of his friends, family, students, fellow educators, former classmates and supporters from around the country came together in his honor.
Raising thousands of dollars and creating awareness for Wandell’s fight with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or simply ALS, the Race for Wandell on Josh Wandell Day was as good as it gets.
“The Lord has blessed us,” Wandell said.
The weather was perfect, and the sight of faces young and not-so-young running and walking from East Side through downtown Elizabethton, across the Covered Bridge and back on a three-kilometer loop brought many a smile to the man of honor.
“It’s a beautiful day,” said Wandell. “I really couldn’t think of anything that could’ve went better. The love and support I feel from this community, it honestly keeps you going each day. It really does.”
For former classmates such as Jeff Cruz, who was one year behind Wandell at Elizabethton High School, the opportunity to give to the cause was a no-brainer.
“I think it’s pretty significant,” Cruz said. “It’s emotional to know that someone you went to school with has something like this. It’s great what everyone is doing to raise awareness for this disease.”
It was the first time in more than a decade Wandell has seen some of those who came back to help his cause.
“I’m seeing people I’ve not seen in 14, 15, 16 years,” Wandell said. “Just to see people I haven’t seen in forever, it almost makes it worth it. If it takes something tragic to get everybody together, I love it and I’m all for it.”
At the race’s end, an Elizabethton City Schools educator, fellow church member and friend of the principal fittingly stood above the remainder of the field.