Thursday, Oct 19, 2023

Niswonger Children’s Network Scarecrow Skedaddle and Shindig brings seventh year of family fun to downtown Johnson City

The Ballad Health Niswonger Children’s Network invites families to suit up and head to downtown Johnson City this weekend for the return of the annual Scarecrow Skedaddle and Shindig.

The event welcomes racers of all ages and abilities to King Common’s Park on Sunday, Oct. 22, with opening ceremonies beginning at 1:30 p.m. The 200-meter modified race begins at 1:45 p.m., welcoming racers of all ability levels to participate. A 5K race and 1-mile family fun run/walk will follow, and participants are encouraged to don their best Halloween costumes to participate. Everyone is also invited to a Shindig in King Commons Park after the event for a costume contest, kid-friendly vendors and photo opportunities.

“We look forward to this event every year and the joy it brings to families across all our region,” said Tara Chadwell, assistant vice president of child health programs for the Niswonger Children’s Network. “The modified race in particular is the heart and soul of the Scarecrow Skedaddle, and it’s an honor to provide a family-centered event that includes everyone, regardless of their ability level.”

By offering a modified race in addition to the 5K and fun run, the Scarecrow Skedaddle also offers an inclusive event for the entire family, including children who require modifications. Returning to participate in this year’s modified race is 4-year-old August Blackburn and his parents, Jennie and Terry Blackburn. August was diagnosed with Down syndrome when he was born, and like half of all children with the syndrome, underwent open-heart surgery as a baby to correct a correlated heart condition. At 2 months old, he also suffered a stroke, which doctors said could significantly limit his physical abilities—doctors told his parents that he might never sit up on his own, let alone walk or run.

But four years later, August is getting ready for his second Scarecrow Skedaddle — and this year, he’ll be walking with assistance.

“They said he would never walk, talk, sit or hold his head up, and now he’s doing all of that and more,” his mother said, crediting her son’s team of doctors and physical therapists for August’s significant progress. “Last year, he was pushed in a wagon, but this year, he’ll get to walk with some assistance. He’s made huge strides this year, and we are so proud of him.”

After the 200-meter modified race, the 5K race will kick off at 2 p.m., looping through downtown Johnson City. Awards will be presented to the overall top three male and female, overall male and female grandmasters and overall male and female masters in addition to age group awards. The 1-mile fun run starts at 2:10 p.m., and the overall top three male and female racers will be awarded after the race.

Everyone who participates will receive a medal after crossing the finish line, and all participants will receive a T-shirt and racer’s bib. After the races, everyone is encouraged to attend the after-race Shindig at King Commons Park. Halloween costumes are encouraged, and those who dress up are encouraged to participate in the costume contest after the race. Additionally, the after-party will include agility challenges, dancing and educational, health-focused booths for children and their families to explore.

“Last year was my first Scarecrow Skedaddle, and I’ve been counting down the days for this year’s race,” said Chris Jett, CEO of the Niswonger Children’s Network. “It’s such a treat to see families coming together for an afternoon of fun and wellness, and it’s a delight to give everyone the opportunity to cross the same finish line, regardless of their ability level.”

For August and his family, the Scarecrow Skedaddle is an opportunity to celebrate how far he’s come – he took his first steps earlier this year, and now it’s all his parents can do to get him to slow down. He started school earlier this month, and he’s focusing on how to balance, jump, feed himself and communicate. He participated in the National Down Syndrome Society’s Buddy Walk earlier this year, and wherever he goes next, his family is there to support him every step of the way.

“We do everything at his pace,” his father said. “When he’s ready to do it, we do it.”

To learn more or register for the event, visit the Goose Chase website. More information about the Ballad Health Niswonger Children’s Network is available at

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