Bankes Memorial 5K to be Saturday

With its seventh anniversary approaching, the Kyle Bankes Memorial 5K run has provided scholarships, community service, a pleasant run in what is nearly always good weather, and an annual reminder of one of Beverly’s most beloved native sons.

In 2013, Bankes was 22 and had just finished four years in the Marines. He was set to attend Ohio University, but on July 13 of that year he was killed in a motorcycle crash near Zanesville.

He was a dedicated and enthusiastic track and field athlete at Fort Frye High School, where he graduated in 2009, and his former coach and a group of friends from the cross country team started the memorial run a few weeks after his death.

Jenna Raver, Kyle’s sister, said the family was involved from the beginning and took charge of the event after the first year. Today, the race attracts at least 100 runners a year, she said, most from the Beverly area and some from Marietta and Parkersburg.

“They come from other places, too,” she said. “The first year, some of his friends from the Marines came in from California.”

Over the years, the race has raised funds to help students with scholarships, and in the past two the fund has branched out to help community causes, in cooperation with the Fifth Street Church of Christ in Beverly and the Latrobe Mission in Parkersburg, she said. Organizers and family have also sent gift packages to military members stationed overseas.

In addition to registration fees, which are $25 for each runner, the race now raffles off gift cards and certificates from local merchants and crafts, such as American flag quilts, made by local residents.

With fees, raffle proceeds and donations, the run raised about $8,000 last year, she said.

“Kyle would be very proud of what we have done,” she said.

The race starts at Fort Frye High School and winds its way through residential streets and roads of the village, every year going past Beverly Cemetery, where Kyle’s headstone rests.

Raver said Kyle, in joining the Marines, was following the path of his older brother, Raymond, who now lives in Virginia and is still a Marine.

“He enlisted straight out of high school, following in his older brother’s footsteps. They were only a couple of years apart, but Kyle really looked up to Raymond,” she said. “And he had an adventurous streak, the travel really appealed to him, and like Raymond, he lived in Japan for a while.”

When John Warner met Kyle in high school, he felt an immediate connection.

“Kyle and I met in a musical theater summer camp. We were both new to the camp, and we quickly became friends,” he said. “We both played guitar, we wrote our own songs, we became best friends from that moment on.”

His friend was an inspiring person.

“There are a lot of things I miss about him, but mostly it’s the way he could affect other people,” he said. “He had a way of confidently believing in you, he inspired you to believe in yourself, whether it was in athletics, music … he made you feel important and unique, he had a natural ability to see and foster the best in other people.”

The run is an appropriate way of remembering him, Warner said.

“He was easily the most hardworking and dedicated person I’ve ever known. He was captain of the cross-country team, and he had this mental toughness, inspiring everyone to run,” he said. “Each year, I run as hard as I can because his voice is there. I can see that in other military people, that dogged determination to get through it.”

Warner said he still finds it hard to think about Kyle’s death, but even that gave him important insights.

“If I learned anything from his death, it was that the universe can be impersonal, it seems not to care about you, but when you find things as pure and uncorruptable and joyful as his life, and having had that in your life … I always thank him for teaching me that,” he said. “I lost my daughter to heart failure, and I knew how precious the moments with her were. There was that, and all the other things he taught me.”

The Kyle Bankes Memorial 5K is set for Saturday morning. Raver said pre-registration is closed but runners can still sign up at 7:30 a.m. that morning at Fort Frye High School. The race starts at 8:30 a.m., and the registration fee is $25.

The forecast is for fair skies.

“We’ve been lucky with the weather, never rained out,” Raver said. “And this year it looks great again.”

Michael Kelly can be contacted at mkelly@mariettatimes.com.