A warm, nostalgic smile spreads across Amanda Davis’ face as she reminisces about early morning runs with her husband, Derek, a man she had known for more than 20 years and the father of their four children.
They called these runs their “weekly dates.” After 14 years of marriage, a run around Holly Springs was one of the few times they spent together without their young children, and they filled these moments with laughter.
“We loved it,” said Amanda Davis, her arms wrapped around her youngest daughter. Alyssa, 5, curled up on her mother’s lap after her father’s name was mentioned. “It was our favorite thing to do.”
But on the last run they took together on April 20, 2015, Derek was struck by car driven by a high school student. Derek, who was 37, later died from his injuries. Amanda was unharmed.
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On Saturday, Aug. 20, Amanda Davis, 36, will honor her husband with the same pastime that brought them closer together. The second annual Derek Davis Memorial 5K Run raises money for college scholarships for high school cross country runners.
“I think that’s what Derek would have wanted,” she said. “Education was important to him. Running was important to him, and helping people was important to him. I think he would be honored to know there is a scholarship in his name now.”
Friends and family describe Derek Davis as someone who always was willing to lend a helping hand and was involved at his church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Apex.
“He always cared about people, and he was good at conveying that,” Amanda Davis said. “He was good at listening to people and helping people, and so because of that, I think people wanted to turn around and do that for other people.”
Church had long been an important part of Derek’s life. He met his wife in church when she moved to his upstate New York town. She was 14 years old, and he was 16.
They were friends first, but when they both ended up at Brigham Young University – after he returned from his LDS mission in Chile – they began dating.
A year later, the couple married. They had four children during their marriage: Kevin, 12; Jenna, 11; Jared, 9; and Alyssa.
“He was very smart,” Amanda Davis said. “He was a lot of fun. He liked to play, loved running, and he loved his family more than anything.”
Derek, a five-year software engineer at SAS Institute in Cary, always made his children a priority. He took them camping and on hikes. They played kickball, and he even joined them for a jump on their trampoline, Amanda Davis said.
“When he was alive, actually he did a flip on the trampoline,” Alyssa chimed in.
Jenna’s most vivid memories are when they got dressed up and went out to a restaurant before dancing for hours at an annual Valentine’s Day dance at SAS.
His wife says his most memorable feature was his smile.
“Everywhere he went, he always had a smile on his face – a big smile,” she said.
A Spring morning
On that Spring morning last year, Derek Davis was on a crosswalk at the intersection of Holly Springs Road and Linksland Drive, where police say Roberto Carlos Solis-Reyes, then an 18-year-old Holly Springs High School student, allegedly ran a red light and struck Davis with his car. Solis-Reyes, now 20, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor death by vehicle and was sentenced to 60 days of community punishments, such as probation or community service, and 12 months of probation.
Since the accident, the family has received an outpouring of support. A memorial fund set up after the accident at GoFundMe.com raised nearly $50,000 for the family, which they used for funeral expenses, medical bills and living expenses.
A year and a half after the accident, Amanda Davis has a strength about her that can’t go unnoticed, and despite her loss, she still continues to run.
“She’s an amazing person,” said Kimberly Henry, a friend and a member of the memorial run’s race committee. “She has to be strong, but she’s just a really genuine person. This has obviously been a terrible situation, but it hasn’t jaded her.”
Running for Derek
Saturday’s race will be the second formal 5K race in Derek’s memory but it will be the third time people have gathered to run in Derek’s honor.
A few days after Derek succumbed to his injuries in April 2015, an impromptu memorial run was held. Residents hung brightly colored running shoes from the crosswalk posts at the intersection where he was struck.
The first formal 5K was held later that year. More than 200 people attended, and enough money was raised to award two $1,000 college scholarships to two cross country runners from Holly Springs and Green Hope high schools. They were selected from a group of applicants who had to obtain a coach’s recommendation and submit an essay.
“It was very emotional, and it kind of started a healing process,” Henry said of last year’s race.
Organizers hope to repeat the fundraising amount again this year, where they expect to see nearly 300 participants.
Participants and attendees also are encouraged to recreate the “shoe tree” at the site of Derek’s accident. The shoes will be donated after the race.
“Last year, (the race) was probably one of the highlights of the year for me,” Amanda Davis said. “It’s just the perfect way to remember Derek, to honor him.”
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608: @KTrogdon
Want to go?
Runners can register online at bit.ly/2b8dnJl through Wednesday, Aug. 17, and also can register the day of the race, which begins at 7 a.m. at Holly Ridge Elementary School at 900 Holly Springs Road. Registration is $30.