The skies may have been cloudy and gray, but that didn’t stop the many supporters who attended the inaugural Deb Maxey Walk-A-Thon on Friday at Camp Lakota in Defiance.

The brainchild of St. John Lutheran principal Shellie Kosmerchock, the event was organized to honor the late Deb Maxey, an educator for 24 years at St. John Lutheran School who lost her battle with colon cancer more than a year ago. The walk helped to raise more than $5,000 for the Deborah S. Maxey Scholarship for high school and college students, as well as a tuition reimbursement program for families who send their children to St. John’s.

Through smiles and tears, current K-8 students from St. John’s, former students of Maxey’s, family, colleagues and community members, were in attendance to take part in a two-hour walk around Camp Lakota. Following the walk, lunch was served to all thanks to a donation from a Thrivent action team and others. The students from St. John’s then spent the afternoon doing different activities at Camp Lakota.

Maxey’s husband, Steve, was emotional when speaking about the event, and the support of many.

“I can tell you this means a lot to me,” said Steve, with tears in his eyes when addressing everyone prior to the walk. “This school (St. John’s) is very special ... we all miss her (Deb) very much, and I know how much she loved you all. Today, she’s up in heaven rejoicing that we’re all together like this, and I know how proud she would be that these scholarships are going to help so many people for decades to come.

“I wish the weather was a little better today, but you’re all tough, so go out there and have fun!” added Steve.

A group of six seniors from area schools were in attendance for the walk, all former students of Deb’s when they were in the third grade. One of those students, Katie Crites of Defiance High School, helped design the logo in Mandy Keck’s graphic design class at DHS, for the T-shirts worn by the walkers.

The colors of the T-shirts (green) and the logo (blue), are colors Maxey painted her classroom at St. John’s. The logo features a book, with the state of Ohio outlined on the front, with Maxey’s favorite psalm (27:1), a keyboard, and a shoe with a cross on it. The book and Ohio outline represent Maxey’s affection for teaching Ohio history; the keyboard represents her playing of the piano and organ at church; and the shoe represents the walk-a-thon.

Crites, and fellow DHS seniors Sadie Tuckerman and Alex Hartman, were happy to take part in the walk-a-thon to honor their “favorite teacher.”

“Mrs. Maxey has been my favorite teacher, even all the way through high school,” said Crites. “I think this is great that this is being done in her honor, she was such a great teacher and she was so dedicated to us.”

Said Tuckerman: “I just think it’s really awesome that the school put this on today. She was a great teacher ... she was one of my favorite teachers. She just really cared about us, and you could see her passion for her work and for God.”

Added Hartman: “It’s an honor to be here to see all the people Mrs. Maxey impacted in her life, and it’s great to see everyone here for the walk-a-thon. I remember how she really cared for everyone, no matter their background or their last name, she just had a caring and loving heart. She was No. 1.”

Kosmerchock, who worked with Maxey for four years before her passing, shared that the two of them spoke often about their separate battles with cancer. The St. John principal became emotional when speaking about reaching the goal of raising $5,000 for the scholarship in Deb’s honor.

“It’s pretty amazing to see everyone here today, I’m so thrilled with how this came together,” said Kosmerchock. “My goal was to raise $5,000, I really didn’t know if we’d make it, but we’re going to surpass that today. It impresses me that our St. John’s family, and the community, have come together like this.”

Meanwhile, Steve knew he was in for an emotional day, but he also knew that he would have plenty of support to help him get through it.

“Because of the money raised through this, we’re going to be able to help so many people for years to come,” said Steve. “What makes it special is that all my older brothers are here, my children, Natalie and Kyle are here ... I’m surrounded by family and friends. I really need to thank Shellie, she made this happen, and I would really like to thank everyone who donated toward the scholarships.

“It’s overwhelming, but I’m just so happy because St. John Lutheran School touches so many families and kids,” added Steve. “To see all the smiling faces, all the energy ... my wife would have loved to be here. It’s emotional. I know because God was working through her, she was able to touch so many lives.”

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