The 10th Annual Spencer C. Duncan Make It Count 5K Run/Walk will be July 31, at the New Century AirCenter. The 5K event will start and finish just north of the U.S. Army Reserve hangar, 221 Gardner Dr. Pre-race events will begin at 7 a.m. and the 5K will start promptly at 7:30 a.m.
For the first time, this event will occur in July instead of August and be in partnership with the Gardner Chamber of Commerce and the Johnson County Fair. The theme of the Johnson County Fair Parade this year is “Heroes Unite.”
Army Specialist Spencer C. Duncan, who was from Olathe, was one of 30 U.S. servicemen who died along with a working military dog on Aug. 6, 2011, when their Chinook helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan. It remains the worst single-day loss of American life in the Afghan war.
Each serviceman who died in the crash will be honored on the Boulevard of the Brave along the course. In addition, photographs of each of them will be on display nearby in a Chinook.
Duncan, who was 21 years old, was the son of Dale and Megan Duncan, Olathe. He was the oldest of their three sons.
Duncan was a 2008 graduate of Olathe South High School.
Shortly after Duncan’s death, his parents created the Spencer C. Duncan Make It Count Foundation to honor and assist veterans. The annual run/walk is the not-for-profit foundation’s primary fundraising event.
The foundation has raised more than $750,000. The funds have provided book and tuition scholarships to more than 300 veterans at six colleges and universities. The schools are Baker University, Baldwin City.; Cleveland University-Kansas City; Johnson County Community College, Overland Park; the University of Kansas, Lawrence; the University of Central Missouri, Warrensburg; and the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
In addition, the funds have sponsored participants through The Battle Within, a local experiential healing opportunity for veterans and first responders. Funds have been provided for veterans to participate in an entrepreneurship program for veterans at Oklahoma State University, Stillwater. And, among other things, funds have provided annual support of Heart of America Stand Down, a local effort to reach homeless and under-served veterans.
The words “make it count” were ones Dale Duncan regularly said to Spencer and his other two sons. Just before saying goodbye over the phone to Spencer for the last time, it was Spencer who said, “I know, Dad, ‘make it count.’”
Dale and Megan Duncan contend that their son did make it count and that he still does. One of the ways Spencer does that is through the foundation. The Duncans are determined to help other veterans make it count, too.
“We know we can’t solve all problems for all veterans,” Megan Duncan said. “What we can do is give someone hope. If we give one person hope, we can change that person’s life. If we change one life, we can change the world.”
The event, which was virtual only last year, attracted its highest number of participants in 2019, according to Dale Duncan. The number of people who crossed the finish line that year was 1,184, he said.
Race day will include food and drink as well as prizes and awards.
Military equipment will be on display.
Online registration is available at MakeItCountToday.org. The registration fee is $35 and includes a race T-shirt. Registration also will be available the day of the event starting at 6 a.m.
Admission is free for veterans, who are asked to register. Veterans can buy a T-shirt at the event for $10.
The registration fee is an additional $15 for participants who want to be joined on the 5K by their dogs.
Back by popular demand is a virtual 5K. Anyone who is unable to run or walk at the race or who doesn’t want to do it has an option of being a virtual runner. The registration fee is $35. It is free for veterans. A T-shirt is available.
Early packet pick-up will be available from 4 to 7 p.m. July 30 outside the Hen House Market, 13600 Black Bob Road, Olathe. Packets also can be picked up starting at 6 a.m. on race day at the registration tent.
New this year is a single bus shuttle on race day. It will start at the Allenbrand Criminal Justice Center,  27745 W. 150th St., and end at the Airport Commission building, One New Century Parkway. The first shuttle will leave at 6:15 a.m. and return every 15 minutes through 7 a.m. The first return shuttle will leave the Airport Commission building at 8:45 a.m. and end at 10:15 a.m.
Once the race is over, activities will move to South Elm Street in downtown Gardner for a street concert with The SKUs. A breakfast food truck will be available. The parade starts at 10 a.m.
Anyone who would like to make a donation to the Spencer C. Duncan Make It Count Foundation can do so online or by sending a check to 119 N. Parker, Suite 175, Olathe,  KS 66061.
For more information, go to MakeItCountToday.org.