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Family honors 'Points of Light' during inaugural run

9/22/2013

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

He had won many a racing medal while growing up in Hays.

But the one Kevin Zimmer earned Saturday will have a special place in the new home he is building in Hays -- and in his heart.

The Hays man joined several members of his family in participating in the inaugural Run with the Herd 5K walk/run and 1K fun run at the 2013 homecoming activities for Thomas More Prep-Marian High School.

Wearing matching lime green shirts, the Zimmer children and their spouses and children competed in honor of their parents, Gene and Mary Zimmer, who were honored as Points of Lights during this year's homecoming activities.

The front of their shirts read, "Zimmers' Points of Light," and the backs were numbered 1 of 15, 2 of 15, etc., in the order that member came into the family.

It was a special reunion this year. Just one year ago, Gene Zimmer was diagnosed with primary lateral sclerosis, which has developed into ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. And he was forced to retire from his math teaching job at TMP just before the start of the 2012-13 school year.

So when Kevin Zimmer, the couple's oldest son and second of four children, and his wife, Ruth Ann, heard his parents were being recognized as Points of Light at this year's homecoming activities, they decided to get the entire family together to participate in the run to celebrate.

"We thought this would be a good way to honor them," Ruth Ann said.

Kevin Zimmer -- a standout distance runner at Hays High School and Fort Hays State University in the 1980s and '90s -- still runs occasionally, and still has that competitive fire.

He finished second overall Saturday to TMP cross country and track coach Matt Dumler and earned the medal for the top male finisher in the 40-49-year-old division.

Gene Zimmer, with "No. 1 of 15" on his back, was the family's biggest fan Saturday, watching many of his children and grandchildren cross the finish line on the school's football field.

"This was nice of them to do," Mary Zimmer said of the couple's family as she walked away from Saturday's race with her arm around her husband's waist. "It's a gorgeous day, isn't it."

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Run with the Herd, a 5K walk/run and 1K fun run, which featured 171 entrants, was a fundraiser for the Thomas More Prep-Marian Junior-Senior High School Endowment Foundation and was run by the classes of 1988 and 1998 in honor of CW2 Bryan Nichols and fallen soldiers aboard extortion 17.

Nichols was a member of the class of '98 who died in Afghanistan when the helicopter he was flying was shot down by enemy fire in August 2011.