South Walton firefighter Danny Margagliano remembers jumping off the tower of a friends boat last year in the Destin harbor. He remembers being loaded onto the Coast Guard vessel, unable to move. That is the last thing he remembers before he woke up in a hospital in Atlanta, six weeks later, paralyzed.

I didnt know Danny then. I donated to the charity set up to help him, Donations 4 Danny, thinking that was all I could do. I never imagined how our lives would cross months later.

One things for sure, organizing a running race is completely different from participating in one. There are a million necessities to worry about: Porta Potties, T-shirts, post-race food, volunteers, runner safety, course markings the list goes on and on.

Karen Meadows, local USA Track and Field and USAT triathlon coach, was the force behind starting the race, and thus became our race director. Soon, Craig Baranowski, president of Hammer Down Multisport, the regions premiere triathlon club, joined the effort, with Hammer Down serving as the host for the race.

Our combined experience as athletes made all the difference in organizing the race. The goal was to make this an amazing event that would continue to grow for years to come.

For three months, Danny went through rigorous physical therapy at Shepherd Hospital, working to improve his mobility. It was a strenuous journey, but slowly, he was regaining some range of movement. Going back home was the real challenge. There were constant setbacks. Danny was back at work as a real estate agent, but finances were too tight to afford all the renovations and care he required.

Karen, Craig, and I set a goal of 200 participants for our inaugural event. Surprisingly, we had 500 registered within the first four weeks registration opened.

It was Craig who asked the team to make Donations 4 Danny our beneficiary. As Dannys longtime friend, he knew Danny needed help to renovate his home to make it wheelchair accessible.

Eventually, we had to cut registration off for race course safety reasons. We sold out with 800 participants.

On race day, few people at the race understood what it took for Danny and his daughter to cross the 1 mile run finish line. For 2-year-old Summer, it was certainly a long way to walk. The bumpy road and cold temperatures were rough on them both. However, Danny and Summer cherish the memory it was the first physical activity they shared since the accident. Summer keeps a photo from the race by her bed.

The $18,000 raised from the inaugural 30A 10K went a long way toward helping renovate Dannys home. But it was the experience that made the biggest difference. I cant wait to do it again this year with Summer and my son, Ethan, he said.

This year, the 30A10K will expand to 2,000 participants and hopes to double its fundraising totals. With this growth, the race has chosen to support three local charities as the beneficiaries of this years proceeds:

          Donations 4 Danny

          Lighthouse Family Retreat, which serves 200-plus families of children with cancer from around the country with 14 retreats to 30A communities. The retreats include counseling assistance to the families, as well as fun activities for the children.

          Food for Thought, which provides backpacks with easy-to-make meals to kids at risk of going hungry.

Because of the local businesses that generously donate as sponsors and the local 30A community who volunteer and run the race, the 30A 10K continues to thrive. We hope the race will become a long-standing tradition in our community by promoting health, thankfulness, and togetherness during the holiday season.

To register for the upcoming 30A 10K on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, visit Register before Sept. 1 for early registration rates of $45 for the 10K and $20 for the 1 Mile Fun Run.