A woman wearing a yellow shirt crosses a finish line at a running event in Ashland, Ohio.
Carol Kurek, 77, an Alzheimer's patient at The Good Shepherd, crosses the finish line at an event thrown for her on Friday, Aug. 18. Credit: Dillon Carr

ASHLAND — Carol Kurek likes to run. It makes her feel good. 

She doesn’t do it as often as she used to, during her triathlon and marathon years. She’s been a resident at The Good Shepherd (TGS), a Lutheran Social Services nursing home in Ashland, for a year now. A year before that, doctors diagnosed her with Alzheimer’s disease. 

“We tried to keep her at home for as long as we could,” said Lisa Black, Kurek’s daughter.

When her mom wandered away from home, it was time.

One day, as she walked around Freer Field with a TGS nurse, she uttered a wish: “I wish I could run another 5K.” 

The wish got back to Terry McQuillen, TGS’s director of life enrichment and volunteer coordinator. She coordinates the nursing home’s “As You Wish” program. 

So, McQuillen got to work on making Kurek’s dream come true. 

Kurek’s son, Shannon, of Granville, owns and operates HFP Racing — a triathlon, duathlon and running promotion business. 

“I think it’s great,” Shannon Kurek said, adding he brought race flags, a finish line and signs for fans to hold. 

McQuillen had medals made. Black helped spread the word. They brought snacks and drinks for all the finishers.

Before the start, Shannon Kurek led the crowd in singing “happy birthday” to Carol Kurek. She turned 77 recently.

On Friday, around 50 people showed up to Freer Field to walk behind Kurek as she made one lap around the field — about a mile in length. 

Though she walked most of the route, she broke out into a jog to cross the finish line — a wide smile spread across her face.

As You Wish

Friday’s “As You Wish” event marked the 40th since its origin in 2013, McQuillen said. The first wish went to a patient who used to be an elementary teacher.

“We went to the school so she could teach one more class,” she said. 

Some are simple, like wanting to eat a meal at their favorite restaurant, she said. Others are a little more elaborate. 

“Like, one year, we took a man to the Brown’s season opener,” McQuillen said. 

Running brings the family together

Black, who herself is a runner, said Friday’s event for her mom was special. 

“I got into running because of her,” she said. “I remember going to a jazzercise class and it kinda grew from there.” 

When Shannon Kurek launched his racing promotion business, he traveled across the state most weekends. 

A younger Carol Kurek on her bike during a ride.

“I missed a lot of things like graduations and weddings and other things,” he said. “So mom would come to the races to run, but also to see my family. Some of (the races) were like a big family reunion.” 

For Larry Kurek, Carol’s husband, the event meant a lot. The couple has been married since 1964. He said it’s “hard” seeing his wife with Alzheimer’s disease. The couple lived in Mansfield before moving to Ashland. 

She lives in the nursing home, and he lives in the Good Shepherd Villa across the street. 

“We’re all getting along,” he said.

The Life section is supported by Brethren Care Village in Ashland.

Lead reporter for Ashland Source who happens to own more bikes than pairs of jeans. His coverage focuses on city and county government, and everything in between. He lives in Mansfield with his wife and...