by Elsie Walker
Hackettstown resident Margaret Walling was 11 years old when it was discovered that she had a brain tumor. The community rallied to help her and her family. At one point, Margaret told her mother, Donna, that she wanted to pay it forward. When she was better, she wanted to take the fundraising organization set up for her and have it help families, just like hers, who had children with cancer.
Unfortunately, Margaret passed away in 2013 at age 12, but her desire to help others continues through “Smiles For Margaret.” On Nov. 26, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, people can not only help to keep Margaret’s dream of helping others going, but also work off some of those pounds gained from stuffing themselves at Thanksgiving.
Aptly called The Huff and Puff After You Stuff, the event is a 5K memorial race open to individuals, families and teams. Registration is at 8:15 a.m. in the American Legion building in Hackettstown, with the race starting at 10 a.m. To sign-up or to donate, visit the Smiles For Margaret website: https://runsignup.com/Race/NJ/Hackettstown/MargaretWalling
“It is a great comfort to be able to help other families,” said Donna Walling, president of Smiles for Margaret. She explains that she is supported by “an incredible board who make my ideas happen.”
The Huff and Puff After You Stuff was actually the last fundraiser done for Margaret before she died. After that, it was decided to keep the annual event going to support Margaret’s dream of helping other families who have children fighting cancer. These families are helped monetarily and so far Smiles for Margaret has assisted a dozen such families.
“The 5K is the largest fundraiser we do,” said Walling . Last year, we had over 300 participants and raised $13,000.” This year, she said that they hope to have at least 350 people participate. The race is a Track and Field Association sanctioned race and is run on a marked course at River Front Park. John Patrick Montgomery and John Montgomery, both of Hackettstown, finished first and second last year. Details on the course and other race details can be found on the Smiles for Margaret Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SmilesForMargaret/?fref=ts.
“We have prizes and metals for the winner and lots of random (door Prize) prizes for the runners,” said Walling.
While the 5k is the biggest fundraiser for the organization, it is supported during the year in other ways. Walling shared that the organization has been supported during the year by the girl’s field hockey team on which Margaret played. They allowed Smiles For Margaret to run a snack stand during their tournament this year and keep the proceeds as a donation. Walling said they had a great time doing it. In addition, Centenary students from the Sports Management class also planned and held a Family Fun Day at Donaldson’s Farm.
As the Huff and Puff After You Stuff comes closer, Walling was asked what she might say to those considering participating in it.
“It’s a fun morning and a great tradition to have with your friends and family, to remember my Margaret and also to raise money for the other families that are out there,” she said. “The number one killer of children is brain tumors. I cannot find the cure, but I know that I can give money to these families with children fighting cancers and make their every day a bit easier.”