Going the distance to support Bird
|Supporters of Ward Bird at the Jingle Bell Run/Walk, from left to right: Joanne Coppinger, Tina Price, Dan Reidy, Michael Tolman, Riley Swedberg, Wendy Smith, Jon Tolman, Rachel Smith, Joe Smith, Brian Eaton, and Eleanor Eaton Erin Plummer. (click for larger version)|
December 15, 2010MOULTONBORO — The chilly weather could not stop supporters of Ward Bird from doing multiple laps around the Moultonboro Lion's Club to raise money and awareness for his cause.
Supporters gathered at the Lion's Club on Saturday for the first ever Jingle Bell Walk/Run to benefit and raise awareness for the ongoing campaign calling for his release from prison.
Bird is serving a three to six year sentence at Carroll County jail for criminal threatening with a firearm following an incident in 2006 where a woman accused him of pointing a gun at her to get off his property. Supporters said Bird only showed a gun to protect his property and family and imposing the mandatory minimum sentence is unjust.
Supporters are rallying for the Governor and Executive Council to release Bird and the legislature to change state laws to allow a person to show a firearm to defend his or her property without it being considered criminal threatening.
The Jingle Bell Walk/Run was the idea of Moultonboro Academy cross-country coach Dave Severance, a team that also includes Ward Bird's son Ian Bird.
"We wanted to support the Bird family," Severance said.
The walk/run raised over $2,400 toward the cause with around 100 people pledging or sponsoring. Around 50 people stopped by to make donations.
"People have been very generous. We got many donations of $100, $250," said supporter Joanne Coppinger.
The cause is also receiving donations from children across the area. Coppinger said the level of support has been strong, from people donating to people picking up shirts and signs. Many people with signs have been putting them around the area and in locations such as Bartlett, Conway, and even Exeter.
"It's really the broad-based support that's been amazing," said supporter Dan Reidy. "It's become a real family project for many of the people that are here."
The ultimate hope is there will not be a need for the word to be taken any further.
"We're really hoping not to go too much further afield," Reidy said.
Many of the runners knew Bird and his family in some way.
Joe Smith did the most number of laps, covering 16.2 miles in 10 laps.
"I just kept on trying to do a little bit more. I didn't think about it too much," he said.
Smith is on the MA cross-country team said he is good friends with Ian Bird.
"I just wanted to help out the cause as much as I can," Smith said.
Abby Gosling of Meredith ran the quickest lap for a woman, covering 1.62 miles in nine minutes and 15 seconds. Vickie Johnson covered the most laps for a female at 11.34 miles and raised the most pledges.
The overall winner was Graham Severance, who ran the distance in eight minutes, 50 seconds.
Members of the Eaton family were among those taking part. Brian Eaton said his family is friends of the Birds' and he heard of the walk through the school.
"We just want to come out and be part of the effort, not to mention it turned out to be a nice day for a stroll," he said
Eleanor Eaton, a seventh grader at MA, is friends with Bird's daughter Aberdeen Bird.
"It's our community and it's just helping others," she said.
Severance said there are hope to have the Jingle Bell run next year.
"Hopefully it won't be this cause next year," Severance said. "Hopefully it will be for another cause."
Sponsors and prize donors included the Woodshed Restaurant, Buckey's Restaurant, Aubachon Hardware of Moultonboro, the Old County Store, Skelley's Market, Holland Hill Studio, and CG Roxane/Castle Springs.