NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Russ Neufeld loved Mojo’s, Patty Meier’s coffee bar located at Bethel College.
Neufeld, of Newton, who died in January of lymphoblastic lymphoma, drank a lot of Mojo’s coffee and also played at Mojo’s a number of times with his acoustic group, The Ne’er-do-wells, which included several other Newton residents.
So it’s fitting for Mojo’s to be a starting point and main sponsor of a winter run called Run the Neuf in Neufeld’s honor and memory.
“Bethel and Patty at Mojo’s have been great in their support for this event,” said David LeVan of Newton, a member of the organizing team for Run the Neuf.
For Neufeld, a Canadian who lived his last 15 years on the Kansas prairies, such an outdoor activity couldn’t be more fitting.
The inaugural Run the Neuf 9K and 2-mile run will be Jan. 13, 2018, nearly a year after Neufeld’s death. The run starts and ends at Mojo’s, located on the Bethel campus inside Schultz Student Center, and includes North Newton streets as well as Sand Creek Trail.
The Neuf will memorialize Neufeld, who lost his battle to precursor T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma on Jan. 21, 2017. But organizers say the run is more about celebrating life than mourning death. And in his last post on Facebook, Neufeld embodied this.
“Take all this love you have and share it,” he wrote. “It only multiplies, and there are so many who could use it … just spread the love folks – it’s the only thing in this world that endures.”
Neufeld’s friends and family also described him as adventurous. Neufeld, a husband and the father of two, was also an active musician and an employee and graduate of Hesston College. The run will raise money for a Russ Neufeld Memorial Scholarship Fund at the college.
In addition, proceeds will be donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in honor of Neufeld’s last 18 months battling lymphoma.
But loved ones say Neufeld never ceased to live.
“He had an infectious love and passion for life,” said Kendra Neufeld, Russ’ wife. “And that is what is motivating his friends to hold this race in his memory.
“This race is to remember Russ, who encouraged us all to push a little harder when we feel like giving up, and to not settle for how the world is, but to make it better.”
The unique 9K distance also holds special meaning for the Neufeld family. Russ Neufeld went by the nickname “Neuf,” which led to the name for the race and the inspiration for the distance.
Neuf means nine in French, represented by the “9-ball” stick shift handle on Neufeld’s car.
The race is open to those who knew Neufeld, but also to those who did not.
“For those on this journey,” said Toby Tyner, Newton, a member of the organizing team and of The Ne’er-do-wells. “Whether fighting, supporting, cheering, adjusting, mourning or any other place on this route – this race is for you.
“Just like Russ did in life, this race is our opportunity to extend community and to shine a little light on the path.”
All registered runners receive a timing bib, a commemorative toque (in “American,” a stocking cap) and post-race festivities at Mojo’s which include coffee, hot chocolate and continental breakfast items.
The top three male and female finishers receive handmade mugs from Hanna Eastin Pottery, Newton.
The race will start at 10 a.m. Jan. 13 outside Mojo’s Coffee Shop, 300 East 27th Street (Bethel College campus) in North Newton. The Neuf entry fee is $35 for the 9K and $25 for the 2-mile ($40/$30 on race day).
Race-day registration closes 15 minutes before the race and may not include a toque.
Visit runtheneuf.neuf.ca for more information, to register online or to print a registration form.