The NeSmith Way 5K brings support to pediatric patients in the Big Bend

Stephanie Nicholas (UF Health), Jess Yeager, Jerry NeSmith, Erin NeSmith, Natalie NeSmith, Sue Ault (Photo by April Pinner)

As parents, Erin and Jerry NeSmith of Tallahassee have experienced firsthand the importance of accessible health care for their child. The two-and-a-half-hour drive from Tallahassee to Gainesville may not seem that bad, but when their son was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), their only option was to bring him to UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital in Gainesville every three months for the specialized care he needed. According to the Arthritis Foundation, JIA is an autoimmune disease that can cause joint pain and inflammation in the hands, knees, ankles and wrists. Mornings were often hard for the NeSmiths’ son. Some days he could barely walk because of the pain.

The NeSmiths were relieved to learn that UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital has a local outreach initiative in Tallahassee, which means they don’t always have to travel to Gainesville for his care. The UF Health Pediatric Specialties Clinic in Tallahassee provides a unique opportunity for University of Florida physicians in Gainesville to care for patients in Tallahassee through both telehealth and in-person appointments, with more than 16 UF Health providers rotating through the practice.

“We are so grateful for the medical staff at UF Shands Children’s Hospital for giving us answers after a long year of doctor appointments and unanswered questions. We are so thankful his doctor travels to Tallahassee from Gainesville to see him,”

Erin NeSmith

In appreciation for the excellent local care they received, the NeSmiths created the NeSmith Way 5K in 2019 to raise money to benefit the UF Health Pediatric Outreach Fund. On Saturday, July 17, the NeSmiths held their third annual run, where participants experienced challenging trails through the picturesque countryside of the Phipps family’s Meridian Meadows property.

“It is such an honor for us to be a part of this fundraiser for UF Health and to help raise money for a cause that means so much to our family and our local community. We are so excited to see the future growth for the NeSmithWay 5K and to help in any way possible,” NeSmith said.

The NeSmiths are hopeful that through sponsoring this event each year, awareness of the UF Health Pediatric Specialties Clinic will increase, and that the community will join them in ensuring children from the Big Bend will be able to receive their medical care a little closer to home.

The 2021 NeSmith Way 5K raised more than $7,500 for the UF Health Pediatric Outreach Fund. This fund is used to support the outreach initiatives of UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. You can support this clinic to help more children in the Big Bend area by making a gift through the giving link below. Thank you to the NeSmiths for their ongoing generosity and to this year’s event sponsors!

Event sponsors included Belgard Landscaping, Momentum Fitness, Advanced Realty Group, Cowles Landscape Architecture, Cadence Running, Coosh’s Bayou Rouge, Crowder, Gulf Coast Tung Oil, Centennial Bank, Killearn Country Club, Hangar 38, Lambert Group, Northside Tax Service, Keith Lawson Services, Mays-Munroe & The Sleep Center.

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Help support the outreach initiatives of UF Health Shands Children's Hospital.