Spartanburg, S.C. – The University of South Carolina Upstate is pleased to announce the 4th annual Josh Lee Memorial 5K raised a record $56,000.
The race, named in honor of the late Josh Lee—a cross country runner who was one of four student-athletes killed in a car accident in October 2015—was held May 4 on USC Upstate’s campus. About 200 people participated this year, continuing the event’s positive trend in growth.
Proceeds support the USC Upstate track and field program and the Josh Lee Endowed Memorial Scholarship Fund, which was founded in 2015 to create transformative opportunities for student-athletes.
“We were delighted by the outpouring of support for this year’s race, which will have an even greater impact on the Upstate Spartan track and field program,” said Dr. Meredith Brunen, vice chancellor of University Advancement. “We take pride in remembering Josh Lee and honoring his legacy in this way.”
The race is organized by Josh Lee’s parents, Johnny and Laurie Lee; 2008 alumna Cathy Voelker and her husband, Thomas; and USC Upstate cross country coach Carson Blackwelder.
During its first three years, the 5K was held in Cowpens, S.C., as part of the Mighty Moo Festival. But planners decided this year a move to a larger venue was needed.
“We started out really small,” Johnny Lee said. “It has just grown beyond our expectations. Our family has been overwhelmed by the positive response. We have raised money not only for scholarships, but for the track program as a whole. We hope to continue to grow this race and impact the lives of student-athletes for many years to come.”
Laurie Lee, who authored the book “Just Finish the Race,” a tribute to her late son and a narrative of her own grief over his loss, said the couple believes their son would be proud.
“Josh would always finish the race, never give up and strive to do better,” she said. “And he would encourage others to do this. That’s why people remember Josh—because of the way he treated others. His teammates loved him not just because he was part of the team. He was the one that made them smile; made them laugh; see the bigger picture. That’s how you succeed in life—by helping others. That’s why we’re doing this for him. It’s in his memory.”
“Josh was an amazing person,” Cathy Voelker said. “We wanted to be able to remember a friend and to continue his legacy. This race just seemed to be a natural fit.”
Blackwelder, who coached Josh, said the 5K has had a great impact on student-athletes and their families.
“The athletes that have received the scholarship money have been impacted the most,” he said. “The team as a whole has benefitted, as the money raised helps offset the cost of travel and equipping the team throughout the year.”
“This event has a lot of meaning for me,” Blackwelder added. “It honors one of our student-athletes that didn’t have a chance to reach his full potential. I just hope we can continue to keep his memory alive. I know Josh would have been proud of how the event has grown and positively affected everyone around it.”
For information about how to give to the Josh Lee Memorial Endowed Scholarship Fund, visit: www.uscupstate.edu/give, or call University Advancement at 864-503-5234.
About USC Upstate
The University of South Carolina Upstate is a regional comprehensive university offering more than 40 undergraduate and graduate programs in the liberal arts and sciences, business administration, nursing, and education. Located along the I-85 corridor in Spartanburg between Greenville and Charlotte, USC Upstate is ranked by U.S. News & World Report at #2 among Top Public Schools. It serves as a major talent producer for the region, with more than 6,000 students, approximately 1,300 new graduates a year, and nearly 30,000 alumni, many of whom live and work in the state. The USC Upstate Spartans compete in 17 NCAA Division 1 sports as a member of the Big South Conference. For more information, visit www.uscupstate.edu.