By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published April 6, 2017
DALTON—St. Joseph Church in Dalton honors the memory of a young runner by hosting an annual road race with proceeds funding college scholarships for youth. The 10th annual Run for John will held on Saturday, April 29, with participants gathering for the start at 8 a.m. at the church, located at 968 Haigmill Lake Road.
John Bruner, who was a parishioner, was 19 when he died while running in the Missionary Ridge Road Race in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 2007. He suffered a heart attack due to an undiagnosed heart problem.
“We were all competing in a race,” his mother, Margie Bruner, said of the sorrowful day. A cross-country athlete herself, until recently she coached the sport at Dalton State College, where she has also taught.
She said her middle child never experienced any symptoms of a heart anomaly and had been running since he was a small child. He competed in cross-country at Dalton High School and Georgia College and State University.
A committee of friends of the family, who are longtime parishioners of St. Joseph Church, organized the first race. Over the years Margie and her husband, Greg, became more involved.
“At first, we sat in the room and couldn’t communicate,” said Bruner about the grief.
Since its inception, the event has awarded $90,000 in college scholarships. Bruner said half the scholarship funds go to students in the parish and the other half to students in the Dalton community.
Following John’s death, Bruner went through her son’s college notebook looking for writings about faith and “I found this essay he wrote about our church,” she said.
As part of the scholarship application, students are asked to write an essay.
This year’s essay theme for scholarship applicants, either high school seniors or those currently attending college, is how to practice Christian charity toward others while pursuing an education.
Service to others was an important part of John Bruner’s life as he grew up in the church, in his family and in the Boy Scouts. He continued his commitment to service as an Eagle Scout and while attending college.
The race, which includes a 5K and one-mile fun run, has helped the family heal. John’s grave is situated near the end of the race route.
“We would all run that course together,” said Margie Bruner.
After the loss of her son, she would run from home to his grave, sit and cry, and then run home.
“That was part of my therapy,” she said.