A willingness to help others is one of the most common traits found in nurses, so it’s no surprise the Practical Nursing (PN) students at NTC Pryor are willing to do whatever it takes to help their classmates – even if it means trading in their scrubs for a pair of running shoes.
On the morning of Saturday, May 6, the NTC Pryor Campus will transform into a 5K course for the first annual Ken Heddlesten Memorial Scholarship Camo Fun Run. Named in honor of a former PN student who lost his battle with cancer, the run was created to generate scholarships for PN students.
“Every year, we have students who struggle to keep up with the costs associated with the Practical Nursing Program, and I wanted to find a way to help them eliminate that barrier,” said PN Administrative Assistant Sarah Thompson. “I also thought it would be nice if we could find a way to do that while also honoring one of our own – Ken Heddlesten.”
Ken Heddlesten was PN student during the 2015-2016 school year. Sadly, shortly before completing the program, Heddlesten was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given only months to live. Ken’s wife, Regina, still remembers the shock of his diagnosis.
“It was unbelievable,” Regina said. “He had just retired from the military three years earlier, and a week before he was diagnosed, he was at clinicals helping people.”
Regina is a registered nurse who works at the emergency room in Vinita, and between Ken’s illness and her job, their family’s farm began to fall into neglect. The PN students and teachers looked for ways to support the Heddlesten family during Ken’s illness, even taking time to help with yard work.
“They came and mowed and cleaned at the farm, because we had let things go – the grass was waist high in some places,” said Regina. “They came and visited him while he was at home and in the hospital, and that meant a great deal to us. His classmates and soldiers from all over the country showed up to say goodbye.”
Ken’s family, friends and classmates still mourn his loss. His was a life of service to others, first in the military and then in the medical realm, and naming a scholarship effort in his honor seemed a fitting way to honor their fallen classmate.
“It just seemed to fit – he lived to serve others, and this fun run will generate scholarships that enable students to achieve their career goal of serving others,” Thompson said.
The Ken Heddlesten Memorial Scholarship Camo Fun Run is not a sanctioned event, and it will not be timed or serve as a qualifier for serious runners. Thompson and her committee intend only for the event to be family friendly and enjoyable for anyone who wants to show their support for the NTC Pryor PN Program.
“People can walk it, run or even follow along online with a virtual run,” said Thompson. “The students in April Blackwell’s business class are flying a drone along the route during the event so that people who want to donate and get a T-shirt can participate in the experience without having to run.”
For those who do show up with their running shoes, the PN students will be manning stations along the route to provide hydration and offer medical support if needed.
“Everyone who participates will receive a T-shirt and goodie bag, and those are included in the cost of registration,” Thompson said. “The registration form will be available on our district website, and people can also stop by the NTC Pryor Campus to pick up a paper registration.”
Registration for the Ken Heddlesten Memorial Scholarship Camo Fun Run opens on March 27, and the race itself will take place on May 6. Those who register before the Early Bird Deadline of April 21 will pay $30, and all other registrations up to the day of the race are $35. Those interested in the virtual run will pay only $25, and there is no registration deadline for the virtual run. On the day of the race, registration will open at 8 a.m., and the run itself will begin at 9 a.m.
All the proceeds will be used to offer scholarships to PN students who are accepted into the program and need help offsetting costs. For example, students take an NCLEX Review Class, which can cost upwards of $200 and is not included in their tuition. Often times the class requires travel and an overnight stay, however the class is beneficial in helping students pass their boards.
“Rather than having a student withdraw from the program because of these additional expenses or unforeseen financial circumstances, we want to help,” said Thompson. “We all know life happens, but it’s our goal here to help them succeed.”
And what might Ken think of the run held in his name?
“He would love it,” Regina said. “We’ve always believed in education. Our daughter is 16 going and to CNA class, our 13-year-old is taking a CPR class, and Ken always told his soldiers to go to school. Our only big regret was that we didn’t go to the school earlier.”