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Muddy Waters by Denise Gates

03/01/2017 03:37PM ● Published by Nancy Babin

Gallery: For the Love of Orphans [7 Images] Click any image to expand.

A few years ago, Tony Gibson, Niceville resident and founder of Heart of the Bride (HOB) Ministries, ran a mud run event in Memphis, Tennessee.  He enjoyed it so much and after seeing the impact it had on the community, wondered if such an event could happen here On the Coast. His thought was to bring the community together to raise awareness, have fun and hopefully raise enough money to cover the cost of putting on an event like this. For you see, Tony and HOB have a heart for orphans and at-risk children.

HOB is a Niceville, Florida-based 501c3 founded in 1998 through one family’s desire to directly participate in caring for the helpless and poor in the greatest places of need around the world.  HOB has established ongoing relationships with local orphan ministries in five nations: Haiti, Kenya, India, Ukraine, and Zambia.  The ministry was publicly launched in 2004 and in 2005, Tony left a 20-year career in church music ministry to become the full-time director of this growing mission ministry to orphans.

So in 2012, Tony, having gotten muddy, wanted to offer something that the community could get involved in to make a difference for an orphan or an at-risk child. However, he had two major concerns. One was getting enough volunteers to support the race, and the other was to find a location that would support not only a 5K but a 5K with obstacles.  After talking with some of the community to get a feel of the support, Tony decided to get it a shot, and the Emerald Coast MudRun for Orphans was born.

The first year, the MudRun, held in Niceville at the Northwest Florida State College campus, had just over 200 volunteers. Success! More than 200 people gave of their time to ultimately help orphans.  They had about 1500 adults participate in the 5K fun run that had 12 obstacles and about 205 kids (ages 5-12) in the 1 Mile Kids Fun Run. What started as an event to raise awareness has grown into a full-blown fundraiser, and now, six years later, the Emerald Coast MudRun for Orphans has between 450-500 volunteers, close to 4,000 adult MudRun participants, 20 obstacles, 600 Kids Fun Run kids, and has raised over $366,000 for orphan care!

“We are so excited that there are so many people in the community who will take time out to support such a great cause,” says Michael Anderson, Director of Development for HOB and Race Director for the MudRun.  “Not only did we want community involvement, we wanted to offer something different from the other mudruns out there, to raise some money and have fun. We knew one thing that would set us apart from other mudruns would be to make it family-friendly and offer a run for the kids.”

Tony and Michael create and dream up the obstacles, always keeping in mind the family-friendly part.  They want to offer obstacles that are challenging but not so challenging so as to exclude anybody. “The fun runs are essentially run at your own pace and the obstacles are optional,” explains Michael.  “Because they are fun runs, it doesn’t matter your fitness level; you can still come out and support a great cause.”  They have added one to two obstacles a year to entice the repeat customers, and in order to keep overhead low because they are raising money for orphans, all the obstacles are built and are put in place by volunteers. Michael makes sure that he and Tony can do the obstacles themselves, and Michael has his wife and kids, ages 11 and 13, test them out, too!

The tag line for the MudRun is Get Muddy and Do Good for Orphans, and the goal this year is to raise over $100,000 to go to orphan care. Race Day is May 20th at the Northwest Florida State College campus in Niceville, and it’s a family-friendly event with something for everybody.  There are new obstacles, three giant mud pits, and ten tons of mud. There will be several 5K Fun Runs throughout the day, a 5K timed competitor, and for those who want even more of a challenge, a 10K Elite Warrior with age categories for placement prizes. There will be a Kids Zone for the children and of course the 1 Mile Kids’ Fun Runs.  Then, when the sun goes down, the music goes up, glow sticks are glowing and the atmosphere is a party, it’s Zero Dark Dirty – a race exactly like the 5K Fun Run with the added twist of running at night. This race is limited to the first 1,000 registrations.

So come on, challenge yourself and challenge a friend and register for the Emerald Coast MudRun For Orphans. Use coupon code ”ONTHECOAST” and SAVE 10% off of registration at  If you would like more information about where the money goes to you can visit 100% of the proceeds from the MudRun go to HOB.  

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Health+Fitness, Community events fundraisers Heart of the Bride Michael Anderson Tony Gibson Do Good For Orphans

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