Kira Morrow still tears up when she thinks about her close friend, classmate and running partner Cameron Caldwell.
“It’s hard,” Morrow said.
“I’ve told people that when you run with people you see them at their best, and at their worst. I knew that when he was diagnosed, he would be facing his toughest race,” she said of Caldwell, who learned he had osterosarcoma (cancer) right after the state cross country championships in November.
She wanted to help.
Morrow turned her senior project into a race to help raise funds for Caldwell’s medical needs.
“I wanted to really tell people, and I knew the more people we could get involved, it would make a difference,” she said. “When you’re coming around the last 200 (meters), when you want to give up, it helps to have encouragement.”
That has been her role for Caldwell.
Because of that, Morrow has been named the Herald and News 2019 Most Inspirational Athlete of the Year.
“When we didn’t know what it was, we were pretty hard on him,” Morrow said as she shared why she used her senior project as a fundraiser.
“When we found out, it was actually harder on him.”
Running is what brought Caldwell’s cancer to his, and others, attention. The pain led to an MRI, which is how the cancer was discovered last fall.
It also captured the attention of classmates, and the road race Morrow pulled together was able to raise more than $4,000 to help with Caldwell’s medical bills. Oregon Tech’s softball team helped, too, and wore, for the first time, bright gold jerseys and had a fundraiser.
Gold is the color of pediatric cancer.
“The day we found out was a weird day,” Morrow said. “Someone had asked if they knew what was wrong, and we knew whatever it was would affect him and take his running away.”
Morrow and others learned via text message.
“It was time to react, and I broke down,” she recalled.
“What I regret the most is texting back, but I told him to let me know what I could do,” she said. “About a week later, I decided to do something.
“I started talking with community members, along with radio stations, TV and the newspaper. I tried to make a connection. We broke the mold. He keeps going. It feels good that I did something that made a difference.
“I think it impacted the community.”
Morrow, who had a stellar career at Henley in both cross country and distance running for the track and field team, will continue to compete as she heads to Southern Oregon University where she hopes to receive a degree in biology.
“I want to make an impact on people’s lives,” she said. “The Cameron thing made me want to do things that will impact people’s lives. I found my passion.
“The race has done something in me, but I couldn’t have done it without the whole community.”