Debbie Ann 5K celebrates life of angel mom

ANDOVER. A special, annual 5K race is dedicated to a hero mom for her efforts to serve the community


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  • Medals are a hallmark of the annual Debbie Ann 5K (Photos by Laurie Gordon)




  • The start of the Debbie Ann 5K.




By Laurie Gordon

She's the guest of honor at a 5K race every year. Though she no longer walks this earth, her spirit is with the runners and walkers who have toed the line at the annual Debbie Ann 3.1-miler for the past nine years remembering a kind, vivacious and passionate woman. This year's Debbie Ann 5K will be held this Sunday, April 28, at Kittatinny Valley State Park, a new venue for the event.

On March 24, 2004, Debbie Ann dove into the icy waters of Culvers Lake to rescue her son from a canoe that had capsized while fishing near their home. She made the ultimate sacrifice, getting her son to the surface and safety before she took her last breath.

The Thank You Mom Foundation began in 2010 as a group of family and friends honoring the life of Debbie Ann Modrow-Snook. Since that point in time, the foundation has grown and expanded to include friends of friends and their friends. The Thank You Mom Foundation incorporated in 2011 and is a non-profit 501-c3 organization.

“What began as the Thank You Mom Facebook group, dedicated in memory to our Hero Mom with just a few likes has expanded to something much greater,” said Debbie Ann's sister, Tracey Modrow-Coombs. “The Thank You Mom Foundation has gathered amazing support from so many great people to help honor Debbie's life and her efforts to serve the good of the community.”

The annual Debbie Ann 5k remembers a more complete story of her life and on-going missions. Funds from the annual races have been distributed to families and foundations which the Thank You Mom Foundation feels Debbie Ann would have proud to support. People going through adversity and sickness have suddenly found themselves a beneficiary as have countless local charities. To date, the Thank You Mom Foundation has raised over $25,000 for various families and foundations. Those who receive the donations are closely selected with one very special angel in mind.

“Our first race was in 2011 at Riverside Park,” said Modrow-Coombs. “The second year we decided to bring it back to Sussex County. We wanted to keep it local, since our mission is to help local families and organizations, and most of our support is from our local community.”

The Debbie Ann 5K was held at at Swartswood Stare Park from 2012-2018.

“This year the park superintendent informed us that they are not holding 5K's there anymore, and put us in touch with Kittatinny Valley State Park,” Modrow-Coombs said. “We are pretty excited about the new venue, as it's actually more easily accessible and just as scenic.”

Helping others was always important to Debbie Ann. She volunteered at the American Red Cross, particularly after 9/11. She made a point of donating professional clothing to women at Project Self Sufficiency, brought winter coats to the homeless in New York city and trained and fund raised for an AIDS charity bike event.

“She could always be found helping out at her son's school, Camp Auxilium and anytime she saw someone who needed a helping hand, she was there,” her sister said.

The idea for the 5K came about when the family thought about Debbie Ann and the strong relationship she had with her son.

“Debbie recognized that as her son was getting old enough to notice things around him, it was important for him to have healthy role models,” Modrow-Coombs said. “I think that is a big part of why this event would be important to her. Running or walking a 5k is a very positive activity that almost anyone can participate in, and the proceeds go toward helping local families.”

The course at Kittatinny Valley will start near the entrance to the park. It will tour runners and walkers through scenic terrain with stunning views of the pond. It follows an off the beaten track United States Association of Track and Field certified course. There will be tents for registration and a barbeque afterward. T- shirts are given to those who register in advance. There will be same day registration this year, though t- shirts are not guaranteed.

“We will have our usual sunglasses and magnets to give away,” Modrow-Coombs said. “Gift cards will be awarded to the top male and female overall finishers, and medals to the top three in each age group. Chip timing is done by Specta Sport, with race results available immediately.”

Day of race registration and check in for those who have already registered will be hled from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. at the park. Group photography and the National Anthem will be held between 10:45 and 11 am and the race will start at 11 am to be immediately followed by a picnic. The awards will be held at noon. Kittatinny Valley State Park is located at 199 Goodale Road in Andover. For GPS purposeuse Newton, NJ 07860.

“We are fortunate to have many several benefactor level sponsors this year,” Modrow-Coombs said.

They are Fredon Animal hospital (this is a dog friendly park, just make sure your pets are on a leash and you clean up after them) as well as Newton-Sparta Pediatric Dentistry, The Lead PR, Teknion, The Scott Family Foundation and Gemini Restoration.

“The barbeque after the run is always a highlight,” Modrow-Coombs aid. “We will be grilling hamburgers and hot dogs from Hayek's Market, serving pizza from Casa Capri and will also have a fresh batch of cookies from Andre's Lakeside Dining.”

Debbie Ann is an unforgettable woman. Growing up in New Jersey, she did it all. She traveled the world hiking mountain tops and camping in the banks and valleys. She played card games with movie stars and musicians in Hollywood. Debbie’s adventurous side even took her skydiving.

Throughout Debbie’s journeys, she was constantly searching for ways that she could help others. Now, through the Thank You Mom Foundation and this race, her legacy remains a bright beacon.

To register and for further information, visit: www.thankyoumomfoundation.org.



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