By BROOKE WANSER
The Grassland Gallop, a 6k and 2k run/walk meant to bring the Grassland community together, celebrates its fifth year this Saturday.
“We try to look at things that highlight the Grassland Community,” said Pastor Ryan Bennett of Bethel United Methodist Church, the event’s sponsor. “It has its own sense of distinction from Franklin and Brentwood and other parts of Williamson County. And we wanted to benefit a Grassland charity.”
Kathy Kunkel said it is the second year her charity, Love on Wheels, a nonprofit to help foster kids get basic necessities, is the race’s beneficiary.
Kunkel, a local veterinarian and owner of the Little House Animal Hospital, said she got the idea to start the nonprofit when she and husband Scott Kwierant went through the application and approval process to be foster parents.
“In one of the classes, they showed us a video of a young man being given a black trash bag and told he had ten minutes to clear out his stuff,” she recalled.
Kunkel said she couldn’t bear the thought of that being the first message to foster children. “That, to me, was the antithesis of care,” she said.
The visual spurred Kunkel and Kwierant into action. In 2014, they founded Love on Wheels, a nonprofit which provides suitcases to children in the foster care system. Inside the suitcases are care bags with necessities like toiletries, clothing, and school supplies.
Providing suitcases with needed items is a powerful statement, Kunkel said. “There’s this subconscious message that they’re trash and they’re not. They’re deserving, wonderful, fabulous kids who through no fault of their own are in this system.”
When a previous charity decided not to participate two years ago, Kunkel’s pastor, Ryan Bennett, urged her to let Love on Wheels be the event’s beneficiary.
“It’s such an area that lacks the funding that they need,” Bennett said. “Kathy is a special kind of person, so it was a no-brainer.”
Love on Wheels is active in 37 counties, Kunkel said, and she hopes to expand it even further. “We want to take it across the state, and then across the nation.”
Festivities begin at 8 a.m., with the 6k starting from Grasslands Middle School and the 2k starting on the nature trail. Kunkel’s horse, Jimmy, who she calls Bethlehem’s mascot, will be leading off the runners.
As part of the event, Love on Wheels will be hosting a children’s underwear drive, and asks that participants bring a pair of socks or underwear as a donation.
The event will also include a kid’s zone with free face painting, costume contests, prizes, and pumpkin painting, and coffee, hot chocolate and snacks.