A healthy baby goes down for a nap but never wakes up. First responders and the fire department cannot resuscitate the infant. A coroner, an autopsy, and subsequent toxicology reports show no resounding causes or unfound warning signs. The cause of death in all records simply states, “Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.”
Such is the case in the United State each year for 2,500 infants. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is defined as the sudden death of an infant that is not predicted by medical history and remains unexplained after a thorough forensic autopsy and detailed investigation.
In simplest terms, an otherwise healthy baby showing no signs of illness dies while sleeping and medical or forensic investigations show no reason for the death.
It’s a story that hits home with the Billings Scheels All-Sports family and the motivation behind the second Scheels Run for Ryan coming up at 8 a.m. Sunday at Shiloh Crossing. On Oct. 25, 2010, Scheels assistant store manager Greg Walter was in a meeting with an employee. Walter was paged for a phone call multiple times but ignored the pages.
When he finally broke off the meeting to answer the persistent caller, his wife was on the other end alerting him that their 65-day old son, Ryan, was not breathing. Walter sped past sales associates, cashiers and managers on his way to his son, only to be greeted by a Fire Department official informing him that his son was deceased.
The coroner could offer no further explanation than SIDS. All subsequent reports gave the same analysis — this was a classic case of SIDS. It’s an answer, albeit an incomplete one, for why Ryan Walter died that day and leads to more and more questions, most notably, what exactly causes SIDS and can it be prevented?
Enter Scheels, the family business that witnessed the most trying day of Greg Walter’s life and has been a support network for Greg and his wife, Sarah, in the aftermath of the tragedy and started the Scheels Run for Ryan in 2013 to raise funds for SIDS research. The 5K race has added a 10K this year but offers the same attractions as in year one.
Scheels generated and donated nearly $10,000 to the American SIDS Institute in Naples, Fla., after the inaugural race in 2013. It keeps the vision that every dollar sent in can help researchers take a step in the right direction toward a cure.
The course is designed by a competitive runner and validated by trial runs with other local runners. On race day it is lined with upward of 65 volunteers blocking driveways, alleys, blind corners and other pitfalls that not only could be hazards, but that force runners to slow down, thus affecting their time.
To add another element of safety, course marshals lead the route and “sweepers” follow behind runners to check for cramping or tired runners and garbage left behind. Participants crossing the finish line have Competitive Timing’s shoe chip clipped off by volunteers, which allows the runner to stand erect and regulate breathing after the grueling run.
The same timing company offers instant results, colorful race bibs, music, and an inflated starting line, all of which add to the pageantry of the event.
And then there’s the race shirt. Scheels graphic designers created the “Angel R” logo recognizable on posters and shirts and put them on a moisture-wicking tech T-shirt. The back of the shirt provides a box that says “I run for___________” so participants motivated to run for a more familiar SIDS victim, infant death, or really any other catalyst can make known who inspires them.
Scheels readily exchanged shirt sizes at last year’s packet pickup, wanting all participants to have the right shirt so they’ll continue to wear the shirt long after the race is over, a sight that warms the hearts of the Walter family.
While all these details may seem to point to a race geared only toward the highly competitive runners who sign for the Scheels Run for Ryan, race organizers point out that the race encourages walkers, families with strollers, and probably even the family dog. Scheels Event Coordinator Ellyn Bumgarner has made entry forms available at Scheels and an online option available through the store’s website (www.scheels.com), the race’s Facebook page (Scheels Run for Ryan), through www.active.com, or from a link off of www.competitivetiming.com.
The race at Shiloh Crossing kicks off events that Scheels will promote and lead once a new 225,000-square-foot store opens there. But for now all focus is on the Scheels Run for Ryan.
And along the way, the funds generated may just help eliminate more families from having to deal with the death of child where little evidence can answer the most basic question…why.