Suzanne Nahay has been running the Tomato 5K at the Margaret Maddox Family YMCA for the past five years. It hits around her birthday in August, so she always looks forward to getting out there with her friends and family and tackling her personal record. She runs with a group of women in the East Nashville community, many of whom she connected with originally at the Y. Now, as she says, they've grown closer and do life together.
For many in East Nashville, the Tomato 5K is a yearly running tradition as part of the Tomato Art Festival. New runners often train in the "Potato to Tomato" group with the East Nasty Running Club, experiencing a 5K for the very first time.
Suzanne describes the energy as "vibrant," with folks showing up bright and early on race day dressed as fruits and vegetables in honor of, of course, the prized Southern fruit. She's always impressed by a handful of runners that show up in full tuxedo suits, paying respect to the tomatoes in the August heat. "Lots of creativity goes into it, and it's just a really fun time," she explains.
A new tradition
In 2018, Suzanne had a new idea for her group of friends planning to run the Tomato 5K. "I said to several of my friends, 'We do this every year. What if we pooled our resources and reached out to our friends and family and tried to raise some money for the Y or another good cause?'"
Right at that time, her family received some very hard news: their two-year-old nephew, Henry, had a brain tumor. "They operated on it. That was successful, but it was Stage 3/4 glioma."
Suzanne's sister and brother-in-law were facing a lot of uncertainty, not to mention medical bills. Her sister had to take a leave of absence from her full-time nursing job to care for little Henry.
Upon hearing this news, Suzanne's friends were immediately eager to help. "So many of my friends who are part of the Tomato 5K group said, 'Well if we're going to raise money, we're going to raise money for Henry and your family.'"
The group had a big pre-party the weekend before the race and made 'Squash Cancer' T-shirts for all the runners in the group. They also made a point to pull out their rainbow or bright-red tutus for race day.
Race day support
The women showed up in force. As word got out about their cause, others began to donate to their 'Squash Cancer' fund for Henry. Even folks who weren't running in their group were cheering Henry's name, a feeling that Suzanne describes as incredible. "He lives states away in Ohio," she says. "They didn't know Henry, but they were still cheering for him."
The group ended up raising over $3,000 for Henry's family. "It was just a beautiful showing of community, both here at the Y and across East Nashville," Suzanne says. "It makes me feel like I live in this small town in a big city. We really felt the love."