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Lace up those running shoes and Back the Blue / September 23, 2021

Looking for a reason, other than your good health, to go run a 5K?

On Saturday, downtown South Boston will be the scene of a Back The Blue 5K run-walk starting at 9 a.m. at Factory Street Brewing Company and looping around town, with the race coming to an end back at the brewpub.

After Virginia State Trooper Chad Dermyer was killed in the line of duty in 2016, Chelsea Wooding began the local Back The Blue 5K run. Wooding’s husband, Bill Wooding, and Dermyer graduated from the academy together in 2014. The Back The Blue 5K is held in Dermyer’s memory and to raise money for a scholarship fund in his name and that of a fellow state trooper, Lucas Dowell, who died in the line of duty in 2019.

“The reason behind starting the 5K was personal for us. I initially only thought it would be a one-time event. Chad was friends with a lot of LEOs in our community. To say losing him hit home would be an understatement,” said Chelsea Wooding.

Following this tragedy, Wooding saw how communities and businesses were coming together to host different functions to honor Dermyer. No one else had organized a 5K, so she went for it.

“I didn’t know this first thing about 5K’s or where to even start, but in a month’s time I got it done with the help of amazing volunteers,” said Wooding.

Registration to participate in Saturday’s Back the Blue 5K will be held Saturday morning from 8-8:30 a.m. at Factory Street Brewing Company prior to the race start time. The registration fee is $25.

Wooding estimates there will be at least 50 participants, with 33 people registering in advance. The deadline to sign up online closed Sept. 3 to allow enough time to order tee shirts for registered participants.

Initially, proceeds from the fundraiser went to the family members of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty, but now the money raised goes to a scholarship fund.

In 2017 and 2018, for personal reasons, Wooding didn’t organize the 5K, but after many people expressed interest of making it an annual event she started planning for 2019. In February 2019, Trooper Dowell was fatally shot while executing a search warrant at a Farmville-area home as police were conducting a narcotics investigation. Dowell was also an academy classmate of her husband’s, said Wooding, and was friends with numerous law enforcement officers in the community.

“Once again, it hit home. I was determined to make the 5K an annual event and make 2019 a special year to honor Lucas. We had an amazing turnout and so much love from the community,” she said.

After the 2019 Back the Blue 5K, Wooding made an announcement that beginning in 2020, donations and race proceeds would be used to start a scholarship fund in Dermyer and Dowell’s memory. Wooding wasn’t aware of it beforehand, but members of Lucas Dowell’s family ran in the Back The Blue 5K and introduced themselves afterwards.

“After hearing my announcement, they made a decision to donate the money back to us so we could start the scholarship a year early. It was truly an overwhelming, meaningful experience and I will forever be grateful to know them,” said Wooding.

Trooper Dermyer and Trooper Dowell not only worked with a number of law enforcement officers in Halifax County, they were friends with so many. They made a positive, long-lasting impression on everyone they encountered, Wooding said. For that reason, she sees the 5K as a joyous occasion to honor their legacies.

“This is as an opportunity to celebrate Chad and Lucas’s lives, honor all fallen officers, and show appreciation to all of our active law enforcement officers,” said Wooding.

In the spring when Factory Street Brewing Company opened, Wooding and her group of volunteers brainstormed the idea of hosting the BTB 5K at the brewpub, while discussing different route options for the course.

“When we asked Jeff and Lisa Francisco [two of the brewpub owners] about possibly using their facility as the meeting point for the BTB 5K, they didn’t hesitate once and have been so supportive throughout the planning process,” said Wooding. Previously, the fundraiser had been held at Halifax County High School, which provided a great course, minimal traffic and plenty of parking, Wooding said, praising the past support of the school division.

Factory Street Brewery offered all the things necessary to make the event a success — with the brewpub serving as the start and finish line of the 5K, race participants will have somewhere to gather and socialize after the race is over. The brewpub is slated to have a food truck and deejay on hand for Saturday’s run.

Wooding’s close friend, Emily Tribble and her family, will be bringing the Happy Heifer food truck. DJ B-Ham (Bailey Hammond) is another close friend and has always been supportive of the event by volunteering and making a donation at past events.

Even if you’re not participating in the BTB 5K, you can still come out and order from the food truck, dance to the DJ, and enjoy a pint of beer.

“Honestly, I just have incredible family, friends, and volunteers that rally every year to help me pull this event off. It wouldn’t be successful without them and our community,” said Wooding.

Law enforcement will be on hand Saturday to guide traffic and runners along the route and ensure everyone has a fun and safe experience. Also, law enforcement officers from surrounding counties will be attending with their family and friends, said Wooding.

Kylie Berry received the 2021 Dermyer Dowell Scholarship. Berry grew up in Halifax County and now lives in the Matthews community on the Chesapeake Bay. Kylie’s mom, Julianna Berry, previously worked for South Boston Police Department and is now a deputy school resource officer in Matthews. Kylie had an impressive application and her essay questions were so detailed, said Wooding.

“It was interesting to read the viewpoint of a child of a LEO and we could tell she put a lot of effort into her responses,” said Wooding. The Dermyer Dowell Scholarship is awarded annually to a high school senior who is the child of a Virginia law enforcement officer.

For more information, view the BTB 5K course, or make a donation visit the event page on Facebook at

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