Niswonger Children’s Network Scarecrow Skedaddle returns for sixth year of family fun at Founders Park
Crisp autumn weather has returned, and with it, the return of a favorite fall event – the Ballad Health Niswonger Children’s Network Scarecrow Skedaddle and Shindig.
The event, held on Sunday, Oct. 23, at Founders Park in Johnson City, features family-friendly races open to adults and children of all ages, fitness levels and physical abilities. The Scarecrow Skedaddle includes a 5K, a one-mile fun run/walk and a 200-meter modified race for children who might not otherwise be able to participate in the traditional races.
“We’re excited to welcome back the Scarecrow Skedaddle for the first time since 2019, and I can’t think of a more fun way to celebrate the season than with wellness and exercise,” said Chris Jett, CEO of the Niswonger Children’s Network. “Like everything we do at the Niswonger Children’s Network, this event is for the kids – every single one of them – regardless of their abilities. This will be my first Scarecrow Skedaddle, and I’m so excited to see the kids out there giving it their all.”
The modified race will kick off the event at 1:45 p.m. The 5K race begins at 2 p.m., and the fun run/walk begins at 2:10 p.m. All participants will receive a special T-shirt and runner’s bib, and all finishers will receive a medal as they cross the finish line. Participants may register up until the day of the event, and registration is $10 per entrant.
The unique nature of the Scarecrow Skedaddle makes it more accessible and family-friendly for children with special health or ability considerations, including 11-year-old Coen Rude, who has been a Niswonger Children’s Hospital patient for most of his life. Coen receives regular treatment for two rare conditions – Stickler syndrome and Pierre Robin sequence – which have resulted in a constant stream of doctor’s appointments, surgeries and therapies to help Coen breathe, eat, walk and talk.
Despite any physical challenges he has faced, Coen has been a Scarecrow Skedaddle staple since 2015, and this year, he’s bringing his standout Star Wars scout walker costume to the event, which was handmade by his father and includes a pop-out Chewbacca on top. After debuting his new, modified wheels at a trip Disney World a few weeks ago, a picture of Coen’s costume went viral on the social media site Reddit, gleaning nearly 2 million views in the Star Wars subreddit.
“We all look forward to the Scarecrow Skedaddle every year, and Coen loves showing off his costumes,” said Chris Rude, Coen’s father. “This event is so important to our family because it gives Coen the motivation to work hard in therapy so he can become more mobile and independent. This year, his goal is to use a walker during the modified race, which is something he’s been working toward in physical therapy all year.
“The race gives our family a chance to get out and exercise together, and that has given us many treasured memories over the years. In a way, it’s also given Coen the motivation he needs to meet his challenges head on, and we love watching him push himself to meet his goals.”
Participants are invited to attend the after-race Shindig at the Founders Park amphitheater, which will feature kid-friendly vendors and photo opportunities. The after-party will also include agility challenges, dancing and educational and health-related booths for children and their families to explore. Costumes are encouraged for the event.
Scarecrow Skedaddle attendees can also enjoy the Johnson City Fire Department’s Touch-a-Truck event, which will also be held at Founder’s Park that day. The fire department’s family event will be held from noon-5 p.m. and feature a maze, dump tank fishing, knock the fire out, stop/drop and roll, bunker gear race, K-9 demonstration, window escape and more. There will also be fire trucks, an ambulance, dozer, police car, swift water boat and rescue ATV on site to view and explore.