Inaugural MSD Heroes Challenge Raises Spirits and Funds

Plans are already in the works for the second annual MSD Heroes Challenge. The inaugural event was deemed a huge success, attracting over 1,200 participants, raising over $26,000 for scholarships and safer community organizations, and bringing the Parkland community together as it remembered the fallen heroes from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The MSD Heroes Challenge was a family-friendly obstacle course race and yoga event created to help unite the community as it heals from last year’s tragedy and support local charities helping to build better and safer communities. It was founded by Douglas Eaton, President of, Debra Hixon, widow of MSD Athletic Director Chris Hixon who bravely sacrificed his life to save students, as well as MSD yoga teacher Amy Kenny, who created the non-profit Yoga4MSD, and Manny Mair, founder of One to One Fitness.

The event featured a two-mile race of exciting and challenging obstacles. According to Co-Founder Douglas Eaton, the race started with a quarter-mile run through sand and uneven ground, participants then had to climb or jump over 17 four-foot walls, each painted in memory of one of the 17 lives lost, and finally run through 30 to 40 tires. A special “kiddie-zone”, for children age ten and under, featured smaller walls to navigate, monkey bars, about ten tires and other age and size-appropriate challenges.

“There was a specially-abled heat where athletes from Parkland Buddy Sports, with their buddies and families, navigated the course,” states Eaton. “This embodied the spirit of inclusion and community coming together and was one of the most significant parts of the day.”

While the day was about celebration and overcoming challenges and obstacles, with many participants embracing the hero theme and dressing in costume, it also paid tribute to who Eaton considers true heroes –  those who lost their lives and the survivors.

“At the opening ceremonies, with Debbi and Corey Hixon present at the podium, we acknowledged why we were all there – to create an extended family for our community – and recited a quote from Nicholas Dworet to exemplify the importance of persistence, optimism and resilience,” states Eaton. “The atmosphere was one of love. There were many hugs, tears, and a great deal of laughter. There was high energy as all who attended were there for a single reason – to show support for their fellow Parklanders and raise awareness for safer communities.”

The event also raised funds for the MSD Heroes Challenge Leadership Scholarship. Two $1,000 scholarships will be presented to MSD graduating seniors who exhibit leadership in raising awareness for a safer community.

“Parkland is a close-knit and wonderful place to live, and we will continue with our mission to support one another,” notes Eaton. “We will work to grow and improve this event as long as there is work to be done on making our families safer from gun violence.”