Canton walkers honor those lost to COVID-19

Robert Wang

Canton Repository USA TODAY NETWORK

CANTON – Betty Smith felt the presence of her late husband, Mark, as a group walked Saturday morning down Market Avenue in memory of loved ones they lost to COVID-19.

Smith wore a light-colored shirt her husband once wore. It bore the name of the ministry for which Mark Smith worked as a longtime pastor – Jesus Speaks, at 1103 McKinley Ave. NW.

“I had to cut it up a little bit because he’s a big guy,” said Smith, the director of EN-RICH-MENT Fine Arts Academy.

Mark Smith, her husband of 23 years, died Aug. 1, 2021, at Mercy Medical Center. He was 88. Betty Smith also battled a serious case of COVID. She has recovered, but struggled with lingering symptoms.

“I was very teary eyed because I thought about my husband, who I know is looking down on me,” Smith said Saturday. “And I know he would be so pleased and so proud that we’re here. And some members of his church are here. And there’s another lady who lost her husband (to COVID), and we had a chance to embrace. So it was wonderful.”

The 5K had at least 52 finishers, and an unknown number of people participated in the one-mile walk. Temperatures rose to the high 70s on a morning with high humidity.

Smith, of Jackson Township, estimated about 15 participants lost family members to COVID. The walk went from Fifth Street North and Market Avenue North down to the area in front of The Canton Repository, at South Market Avenue, then back to Centennial Plaza.

EN-RICH-MENT’s drumline corps performed as the runners and walkers started and finished.

Smith said her experiences walking two Chicago Marathons in 1995 and 1996 in honor of a leukemia patient inspired her to come up with the idea for the walk and 5K to kick off the second day of EN-RICH-MENT’s two-day African American Arts Festival at Centennial Plaza.

EN-RICH_MENT commissioned the race company Run To You Racing, directed by Jim Chaney, to put on the race. Run to You Racing also organizes

“COVID shouldn’t be forgotten. But it will be. That’s too bad, and not only for the people that it took but also the lessons from what we learned of COVID.”

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