HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Runner and walkers joined together at Town Square Park Sunday afternoon for the "Pine Belt Strong 4 Mile Run/2 Mile March." The four miles represented the four victims of the EF-3 tornado that hit the Pine Belt on Jan. 21.
The disaster relief event was coordinated by The Greater Pine Belt Foundation and The Pine Belt Pacers Running Club. The event was focused on "Unity in the Community" by bringing together everyone in Pine Belt Region including Forrest, Lamar, Lauderdale, and Perry Counties where the disaster struck.
"It started out as a simple, little four mile run," said Pine Belt Pacers President Audrey Jackson. "But, everyone wanted to help."
Runners joined at the start line on Buschman Street around 2 p.m., the marchers headed in the opposite direction. All participants crossed mile markers in memory of the four victims: Earnest Perkins, 58; Cleveland Madison, 20; David Wayne McCoy, 47 and Simona Cox, 72.
"We just wanted to show that we could have unity in the community," said Jackson. "It doesn't matter what religion you are, what your age is... we in this community can march for something we agree on which is supporting our community of the Pine Belt region."
Don Vega was the second runner to finish the race around 24 minutes. "I think it's a good cause, the community comes together," said Vega. "We do not fear tragedies because we come and see each other."
Food was provided at the event by Mugshots, Keg & Barrel, Newks, & Crescent City Grill!
Jackson said the donations will go to the The Greater Pine Belt Foundation for long term recovery in the community.
"We clean-up and you think that's it. But some people lost their houses, lost everything," said Jackson. "There are still going to be long term needs down the road."
WDAM 7 and The Pine Belt Community Foundation have been working together to raise money for those impacted by the storm. Through WDAM's "Pine Belt Strong" telethon and texting campaign, we have raised over $485,000.
That money will stay right here in the Pine Belt and help those affected by the tornado recover and rebuild.