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Rugged Red Trail Half Marathon will Fund Robinson Scholarship

The Robinson Scholars Program at the University of Kentucky is pleased to announce a new scholarship for students in Powell, Menifee, and Wolfe counties funded by the Rugged Red Trail Half Marathon. The award will benefit students selected into the Robinson Scholars Program.

During the past two years, students in Robinson Scholars have been honored to work alongside the many community members in the 3-county area who have made the Rugged Red a world class destination for adventure runners. Our young people appreciate the opportunity to be part of an event that promotes the beauty of the Daniel Boone National Forest and brings many visitors to our area. Community service is an important aspect of the Robinson Scholars Program and the Rugged Red partnership will support further involvement of our young people in Powell, Wolfe, and Menifee counties.

We look forward to the community involvement that will come from the establishment of the Rugged Red Scholarship and are grateful to event organizer Joe Bowen for his commitment of race proceeds to support Robinson Scholars from Red River Gorge counties. Even more important is the opportunity to work with the many wonderful people who have made the Rugged Red so successful.

 “Without the support of the many individuals, civic groups, fire and rescue squads, law enforcement, National Forest Service employees, and the business community, the tremendous response from the running community would not have happened,” Bowen said. “And because the community makes the Rugged Red possible, I would like to see our young people benefit, as well. I have been impressed with how the Robinson Scholars Program challenges its students stay involved in their schools and communities, and that is the reason for the Rugged Red Scholarship.”

In just two short years, the Rugged Red Trail Half Marathon has become one of the biggest adventure runs in the eastern United States, with more than 500 people from 21 states tackling the 2015 run of 13.1 miles through terrain that is both challenging and beautiful. And while the beauty of our public lands draws visitors for this event, it is the hospitality of our people who make the event experience memorable for participants.

Certainly, the enthusiasm of runners for the grueling challenge demonstrates the high regard that visitors have for our area. The Gorge is an important part of our local economy, and the Rugged Red has demonstrated that our lands indeed have many uses. The state estimated the race’s economic impact in 2015 at more than $200,000 for the local economy. And the potential impact goes well beyond that. Runners are already expressing their excitement for the 2016 race, and no doubt these visitors will return to the area to enjoy other outdoor attractions. Key in this experience is the hospitality that the community extended to race participants.

Another important point that should not be overlooked is the generosity of race participants who made contributions to support local causes, such as a fund for forest firefighters and the search and rescue teams who are first responders when there is an accident in the Gorge.

As a program that serves eastern Kentucky’s youth, the Robinson Scholars Program is pleased that the Rugged Red is investing money in opportunities for our young people. Since 1997, we in the Robinson Scholars have witnessed the profound impact that a college education has on our young people. The University of Kentucky is a major public university with 16 colleges and professional schools and more than 200 academic programs, which enables Robinson Scholars to explore many college and career opportunities.

Our mission is to prepare first generation students from eastern Kentucky to attend college and graduate with four year degrees. We are also committed to Scholar involvement in our 29-county eastern Kentucky service region. All Robinson participants must complete community service to remain in the program, and we encourage our college students to stay involved in eastern Kentucky by supporting their service projects back home. Thus, we are excited about the future opportunities for support of the Rugged Red Trail Half Marathon.

On behalf of all of our Robinson students – including 116 Scholars at UK and nearly 250 high school students – I extend my sincere appreciation to the Rugged Red runners and the multitude of community members and groups who made the event possible. We look forward to the 2016 Rugged Red and our continued service to Powell, Menifee, and Wolfe counties.

Jeff Spradling is the director of the Robinson Scholars Program and a native of Menifee County.