When Woolwich’s Danny Evarts ran from Wiscasset’s fire station to Newcastle’s last year, the former military intelligence linguist and New York City music industry professional already considered the cause important: Firefighter Five Foundation (FFF) supports responders’ well-being, according to the nonprofit’s website.
As a cleanup volunteer after hurricanes Michael and Florence and other natural disasters, Evarts, 48, has been among first responders. Now he is one: Last spring, the artist, publisher and 22-year Wolf Pond Road resident joined Woolwich Fire Department.
So this year’s Run 2 Respond run was feeling even more relevant, he said inside the Woolwich station Friday morning. Sunday night, the West Coast native — who said he came into the world in the same Springfield, Oregon hospital as “The Simpsons” creator Matt Groening — left the Wiscasset station for the seven-mile run to Woolwich’s. He’d planned to run about another three miles to Bath’s station, but Sunday fellow Woolwich firefighter Alex Namer, 18, volunteered.
Namer said he wanted to help the cause, and Evarts. Evarts said he was delighted. After knee and ankle injuries from other charity runs, he is rebuilding. Due to Sunday night’s run, he skipped an unrelated one at Bradbury Mountain Sunday morning.
Healthcare worker Tanya Holbrook ran it. Then later Sunday, she ran again, taking the Run 2 Respond baton from Newcastle to Wiscasset to hand it off to Evarts. Driving north to Newcastle on Route 1 to get to her starting point, the Portland woman, used to the event’s flatter southern Maine legs, got laughing: She saw all the hills.
Yet after her morning mountain run and her hill-filled evening run, Holbrook was smiling upon arrival at the Wiscasset station. She said the leg’s waters and marsh were beautiful, and the setting sun breaking out of a cloud at the Donald E. Davey Bridge was awesome.
FFF founder Steve Bender reached Wiscasset first, by car. Waiting for the runners, he had time for a lobster roll at Sprague’s Lobster. Bender has been a volunteer firefighter in a Philadelphia suburb, Boothwyn, for 30 years. All the legs were running ahead of schedule because he paced the handoffs slower this year after last year’s heat. “But of course this time it’s beautiful,” he said smiling in the cooling evening air as he raised an arm toward the sky.
Besides Evarts and Namer, other Woolwich firefighters and ambulance crew members took part by escorting participants with an ambulance and a fire truck. Woolwich Fire Chief Michael Demers asked for the escorts for the runners’ safety and he said they responded “without hesitation.” In text replies to questions, Demers praised members for their efforts Sunday and for their service.
“Although (Evarts) is a newer member this year his level of dedication and enthusiasm is amazing! He is very devoted to the department and doing all he can to help and benefit the community and fellow firefighters,” Demers said.
As for Namer, Demers commented, “Alex is a great kid who has been very aggressive since he joined as a junior firefighter a few years ago. He, like Danny, has a big heart and is very devoted to the department ... How fortunate I am to have such a large and dedicated crew. I also had members standing along the route to cheer them on and show their support. They as I do realize how serious firefighter PTSD is and firefighter occupational cancer. We spend a lot of time training on the dangers of firefighters’ risks to cancer and I have established many policies and procedures to help prevent exposure to the members while performing our work. So we all know and respect Danny and Alex for what they are doing.”
Demers said about the cause the run benefits, “In the past, the biggest threat to a firefighter was fire itself but what people don't realize is now more firefighters suffering with PTSD die from suicide or fire-related cancer than actual line of duty deaths.”
Evarts said the run is in its fifth year. It’s always either Maryland to Maine, like last year, or Maine to Maryland, like this year, he said. For this year’s, in a humor-marked Facebook post Aug. 6, Evarts encouraged people to run or donate. “But whatever you do, please don’t leave my body by the side of the road ... It’s better that you just do the (run) with us ... to prevent such a mess. Or at least sponsor me.”
By Saturday night, one friend had to cancel on running with him; and another, Topsham’s Eliza Britt, said she would bike the leg while Evarts ran and Britt’s family supported them by car. By Sunday morning, Evarts’ planned route had shortened, to end at the Woolwich station, thanks to Namer’s offer to take over there and run the baton to Bath.
“The more we have coming together for this cause, the more visibility for both the fire department and the important cause,” Evarts said..
Before Evarts and partner Tommy Davis moved to Woolwich in 1997, they ran an independent record label in New York City. Now they have the creative consulting business Wolf Pond Creative Campus.
Bender said the approximately $12,000 raised over the weekend had the run on pace to meet its $20,000 goal. Last year’s raised about $21,000, he said. To donate or to learn more about the run and the cause, visit run2respond.com and firefighter5.com