For Ashley Winebrenner, making a difference for children with brain cancer has become a true calling in life.
Winebrenner, an independent agent at Dwyer Insurance Agency in London, OH, started Rockin’ on the Run, an annual walk/run to raise awareness about the prevalence of childhood brain tumors and raise money for research.
Now heading into its ninth year, Rockin’ on the Run brings in more than 500 participants and has raised more than $112,000 for pediatric brain cancer research.
Because of her selfless efforts, Winebrenner is the recipient of OIA’s prestigious 2017 Community Service Award.
“Our only goal was to create a memorable experience where Reagyn could have fun, just be a kid and forget about her cancer for the day.” Ashley Winebrenner
Coming together for a great cause
Inspired by a family friend’s daughter, Reagyn, who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in 2009, Winebrenner decided it was time to take action.
“When Reagyn was diagnosed with a brain tumor, we just felt so helpless – she was only five years old,” Winebrenner says. “I always thought brain tumors were very rare, but I soon realized how many children are being diagnosed with this disease every day.”
According to the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, about 4,600 children are diagnosed with a brain tumor each year.
Winebrenner, along with her mom Johnda and Reagyn’s mom Carol, founded Rockin’ on the Run in 2010 to bring members of the community together to support Reagyn and other children battling this devastating disease.
“The three of us were at a walk/run supporting cancer research in Columbus, and we thought, ‘Why can’t we do this in London?’ she says. “We’re a small community and everyone knows Reagyn and her family. That’s how the idea for Rockin’ on the Run was born.”
During its first year, Rockin’ on the Run brought in more than 100 participants and raised $4,500 for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation.
“In the beginning, we had no idea what we were doing – just flying by the seat of our pants,” Winebrenner says with a laugh. “Our only goal was to create a memorable experience where Reagyn could have fun, just be a kid and forget about her cancer for the day.”
Giving back runs in the family
Winebrenner is part of a family passionate about community service. “When I was growing up, I was taught that you work hard and give back,” she says.
Throughout her life, Winebrenner also experienced firsthand the importance of independent agents and the dedication and passion they bring not just to their clients but to their local communities.
Winebrenner’s great grandfather, Paul Dwyer, founded Dwyer Insurance Agency in 1931. In fact, Dwyer Insurance is the oldest family-run agency in Madison County.
Today, her father, Bill Beathard, is the agency owner. An independent agent for more than 40 years, Beathard has been an active member of his local community for many years, from volunteering on London City Council to the Madison County Emergency Medical District.
Following in both of their footsteps, Winebrenner understands the vital role that independent agents play as pillars in the local community.
“To keep the small town community spirit and hometown feel, events like Rockin’ on the Run are so important,” she says. “They let everyone know we might be busy with the hustle and bustle of daily life, but we are always here to support one another.”
‘This has become my mission’
Now, as a mother of three children (and a fourth on the way in April), Winebrenner says she is even more motivated to make a difference for children battling brain cancer.
“I was pregnant with my first daughter during our inaugural race,” she explains. “Once I had my daughter, I was so appreciative that she was healthy. I can’t imagine what parents of sick kids are going through. This has become my mission.”
Rockin’ on the Run now raises funds for Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus. Participants can choose whether they want their money to go toward the hospital’s cancer research efforts or the “fun fund,” which helps make a child’s stay more pleasant.
For example, the “fun fund” is used for art therapy, music therapy, holiday parties and gift cards for parents who commute a far distance. This fund is also used to pay for a teacher to work at the hospital in the summertime to help children catch up on their studies.
“We’ve formed a great relationship with Nationwide Children’s Hospital,” Winebrenner says. “We have two research doctors that speak at our event and participate in the race. They talk to the public about how the funds are used for cutting-edge research right here in Central Ohio.”
A milestone in the making
With Rockin on the Run’s 10th anniversary coming up in 2019, Winebrenner is excited for what the future holds. The nonprofit’s donation goal increases each year, and plans to start a second race in a different community are in discussion.
“Our 10th year is going to be really special for us,” Winebrenner recalls. “I’ve actually never run our race, so maybe I’ll lace up my running shoes to celebrate this milestone.”
As Rockin’ on the Run continues to grow each year, Winebrenner meets more and more children with brain tumors – moments that reinforce her dedication to the nonprofit’s mission.
“We had a very sick little girl come to our race who was getting ready to start treatment,” Winebrenner says. “We introduced her to Reagyn, who is now 16 years old, which gave her a light at the end of the tunnel. Hope that she won’t always feel sick. This is what Rockin’ on the Run is all about.”
To learn more about Rockin' on the Run, visit their Facebook page.