Four years ago, a young girl named Baylor started a legacy to benefit other children; to bring a little light and magic into the lives of kids who, like herself, had to spend a lot of time in the hospital. Baylor Nichols isn’t with us anymore, but in the two years since her passing, her spirit has impelled and inspired her friends, family, and the community to “Bay It Forward.”
On Saturday, September 17, two lifelong friends of Baylor’s parents will complete a 26.2 mile RUCK marathon while also wearing backpacks with at least 25lbs in them, to raise toy donations for All Children’s Hospital, where Baylor, who passed at age 6 in 2020, was treated for a brain stem tumor.
Andrew Sufficool and Justin Noe plan to start their trek at 7 am at the Hernando County School District Office next to Brooksville Elementary School. Both attended classes there with Baylor’s parents, Donnie and Carly Nichols, who host the collection annually to honor Baylor. “All of us grew up together in Brooksville, went to Brooksville Elementary School, Parrott Middle, and then graduated from Hernando High School in 2002,” Sufficool explained. “Donnie is currently a captain with the Brooksville Fire Department and Carly has been a teacher for several years in Hernando County Schools.”
Sufficool and Noe have been training rigorously for their marathon, meeting in the early mornings at places like the Florida Cracker Kitchen, Brooksville, and Hernando High School. It’s not an easy course, but for these marathon veterans the challenge is more than worth it. “Compared to what Baylor and her family went through,” said Noe, a Marine veteran. “This is a walk in the park.”
“As the fathers of daughters, we were so empathetic,” shared Sufficool, fighting back tears. “Imagine losing a child to inoperable brain cancer.”
“You don’t know what to do or say,” continued Noe.
The friends found their answer in the form of marathoning, an activity they both enjoy. Although this is the fourth year for “Bay It Forward,” it is the inaugural run of the RUCK marathon, which will end at Marker 48 Brewery in Spring Hill. “The toy drive was Baylor’s idea and she saw its results the first two years,” said Sufficool. “It just keeps getting bigger and bigger.”
Hosted on behalf of Team Nichols, Sufficool and Noe invite the public along for the RUCK marathon! The event is free, with organizers requesting that each participant donate a new, unopened toy for the Bay it Forward Toy Drive. A spectacular finish line celebration is planned at Marker 48 Brewery, with the Official Bay it Forward event taking place that day from 4 – 8 pm. Co-presented by Team Nichols, Marker 48, Junior Service League of Brooksville, and Off Road 4X4 Adventures, the event will feature a 50/50 raffle, a silent auction, live music, food trucks, T-shirts and bracelet sales, and off road vehicles and brews featuring a Show N’ Shine Contest. Proceeds will benefit the Apple a Day Foundation and the Chad Tough Defeat DIPG Foundation, both of which support children and families dealing with pediatric cancer.
“We would like for as many people as possible to join the event,” said Sufficool. “You can choose how far or as little that you would like to do. You can walk, run or RUCK it. If you can only do 100 yards with us, that’s fine. Your support will not only help those in the event, but more importantly the kids at All Children’s Hospital!”
Marathon participants will be required to bring their own hydration, food, and to plan for transportation back to marathon starting point in Brooksville. Those who would like to sponsor this effort can drop off toys at City of Brooksville City Hall, Burn Boot Camp in Spring Hill, Capelli Salon, Chapel Podiatry (Dr. Charles Chapel), Coastal Engineering Associates Inc., Fox Chapel Middle School, Hernando County Public Works, Jayne’s Dance Academy, Magnolia Gardens Senior Apartments, Marker 48 Brewing, Rusted Jade Art Collective Tattoo Shop, Salon M, Spring Hill Elementary School, Southern Dreams Salon and Boutique, The Clubhouse Salon and Boutique, Performance and Training Facility and Tidal Brewing Co.