The first year of the Dennis McCormick Road Race, it only made sense for Toni McCormick to say a few words before firing the start gun of the race.
It was 1997 and Toni's husband, Dennis, had just passed away from a battle with cancer five months earlier.
Now the race is entering its 16th year, and Toni and the McCormick family are just as much a part of the race as they were that first year.
"They continue to support it," Collins Hill cross country and track and field coach Andrew Hudson said.
The Dennis McCormick Road Race has become the primary fundraiser for the cross country and track and field programs, which is what Dennis McCormick would have wanted.
"I'm just amazed," Toni said of the longevity of the race. "It's helping the school's cross country program. I'm just glad it's still happening."
Dennis McCormick was an Army veteran with a passion for helping youth athletics. He spent countless hours volunteering in Norcross when he moved his family from Washington, D.C., in 1981.
The McCormicks moved to Lawrenceville in the 1990s and Dennis was instrumental in starting sports programs in the Collins Hill district when the school opened in 1994. He got sick from cancer in 1996 and passed away on St. Patrick's Day in 1997.
"When he passed away, he was missed by a lot of kids and the parents wanted to do something to remember him," Toni said.
So the Dennis McCormick Road Race was formed. That first year it had just a handful of volunteers and more than 100 runners. The 16th annual race has grown to nearly 600 runners.
"It's a great honor for my family and myself," Toni said. "Dennis' love in life was kids."
Toni was the official starter for the race for the first seven years, but in recent years she's shared the duties with her kids. Toni's son Shawn, who runs triathlons, is a regular runner in the event along with her daughter Kelli.
"The whole family is extremely proud of (the race)," Shawn said. "It's nice that the community hasn't forgotten him."
The race will begin in front of Collins Hill High School on Taylor Road and weaves through the Richland neighborhoods. It finishes in the football stadium on the track.
"We look forward to seeing everyone," Shawn said. "It's the one time of year I see some people."
Toni is filled with pride as she talks about the race and her late husband. The race continues to grow stronger every year, which means more financial support for the Collins Hill running program. But more importantly, it means the community hasn't forgotten what Dennis meant to the budding years of Collins Hill.
"I'm hoping 20 years from now it will be as big as the Peachtree (Road Race)," Toni said. "He's looking down on them."
What: 16th annual Dennis McCormick Road Race
When: Saturday, 7:30 a.m.
Where: Collins Hill High School
Noteworthy: The Dennis McCormick Road Race is the primary fundraiser for the Collins Hill cross country and track and field programs.