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Event to remember children who perished in construction accident, honor first responders who tried to save them

JENNA-LEY HARRISON
Staff Writer

A 5K race and community gathering will take place in Denver later this month to not only remember the children who perished in a construction site accident in April but also honor the emergency crews who responded to the incident.
Lincoln County residents Tanya Dyer, a nurse, and Allyson Sigmon, a former Catawba County EMT and firefighter, have been seeking donations and organizing the event, set for Aug. 31, since the tragic news shocked the community this past spring.
Sigmon was out for a run on April 8, the morning following the deaths, contemplating what had happened. She said she immediately knew she had to do something to recognize the dozens of volunteers who worked hours to try and rescue James Levi Caldwell, 7, and Chloe Jade Arwood, 6.
The cousins had been playing inside a massive trench on property belonging to Jordan Arwood, the girl’s father, when deputies said a wall of dirt collapsed on the children, burying them alive.
Arwood was operating a backhoe at the residence at the time of the incident, however, exactly what he was constructing is still a mystery. The Sheriff’s Office said the man did not have building permits for the work.
Search and rescue teams consisting of first-responders from Lincoln and neighboring counties attempted to dig the young victims out of the pit alive, but the event quickly became a recovery mission.
While Arwood has since been charged will illegal possession of firearms and marijuana, he has not been charged in connection with the children’s deaths.
Sigmon and Dyer did not personally know the children, but they said they knew the scores of Lincoln County paramedics and firefighters who worked the incident.
“My heart was aching for the kids, the family and the firemen,” Sigmon said.
She believed God gave her the idea for a community fundraiser and race event.
“I couldn’t shrug it off and kept thinking and praying about it,” she said.
That same day she contacted Dyer, her running partner, about the idea.
Through the event, the women not only hope to unite area residents but also give them the opportunity to praise local first responders. Sigmon and Dyer also want to give area children a time and place to properly grieve the loss of two classmates.
Proceeds will go toward the purchase of new gym and playground equipment and a plaque honoring Chloe and James at Catawba Springs Elementary School and Long Shoals Wesleyan Academy.
Sigmon said she couldn’t think of a better way to remember the child victims than “to give the gift of playtime and recess.”
Donations will also be used to purchase rescue and training equipment for East Lincoln and Denver Fire Departments, the incident’s two primary responding agencies.
The Kids at Play 5K Run/Walk will start at the Westport Market Shopping Center, located at 2110 North N.C. 16 in Denver.
Cost is $20 for adults, $15 for emergency service personnel and $10 for children 12 and under.
Additional activities will include face painting, a National Guard rock climbing wall, Zumba, an inflatable, a Red Cross blood drive and a free Fun Run for small children.
To register, visit active.com or email Allyson Sigmon at asigmon@gmail.com. Individuals may also sign-up between 7 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. the day of the race. Registration is not required for the Fun Run.

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