MOORHEAD — RyAnn Manney would bring her son, Brayden, jogging with her every so often as a way to stay active during quarantine and the period of social distancing at home. After some time, Brayden told his mom he was interested in organizing a 5K race.
“I said, ‘OK,’ and kind of explained to him how it works and that he needed to pick someone to donate his proceeds to,” RyAnn said.
Without any hesitation, Brayden, who is 10 years old, chose the Moorhead Youth Hockey Association. Brayden is the great-grandson of the “biggest” Spuds fan, John Manney. It was a no-brainer.
The event quickly transformed from a run dedicated to MYHA into a memorial race for his great-grandfather, John. John supported Moorhead Youth Hockey for years, both financially and with his presence. John was a “superfan” of Moorhead hockey, and attended every game he could — home or away — from the 1970s to his final game in January 2018. John died Feb. 25, 2018.
“He liked donating to Moorhead Youth Hockey, so I decided in his memory that I would do that too, but in something for him,” Brayden said.
Thanks to Brayden, a second-year squirt hockey player in Moorhead, the John Manney 5K Virtual Race will kick off Saturday, Oct. 17 and run through Oct. 24. It’s $25 to register for the week-long virtual event, and registration is open until the final day.
“After they register they can go out and do their virtual event whenever they want,” RyAnn said. “I think the most fun part is we’ll post pictures of our event day(s) and share some memories of John and Spud hockey on the event page.”
Some of Brayden’s earliest memories are meeting John at the rink to catch a game with his great-grandpa and his dad, Jason, who is John’s grandson. The Manney clan always sat in the same spot at the rink.
“Brayden always remembers him being overly excited watching the Spuds play,” RyAnn said. “He would squeeze (Brayden’s) hand or shoot him an elbow or a knee.”
The patriarch of a long line of Spuds fans, three of John’s sons played for Moorhead. Long after his boys graduated, he was still invited to travel on the parent bus to away games.
Two of John’s sons played college hockey at the Air Force Academy, a Division I program. Five of his grandsons played the sport, and his great-grandson is currently carrying on the tradition in Moorhead.
The family is surprised with how the event transpired, RyAnn said. When Brayden first mentioned the idea, RyAnn thought they could just try to find a sponsor to get some shirts made for a small, family-centered 5K.
“I was thinking we would maybe end up donating a couple hundred bucks from Brayden under his great-grandpa's name as a fun little thing,” RyAnn said. “I thought it was gonna be a super small, fun little project just privately that we were going to do, but it kind of blew up.”
With increasing interest from people, RyAnn told Brayden he should contact MYHA to get the event OK’d, since they’d be using the association’s name. Brayden called the office and an administrator gave him the executive director Rob Gramer’s email.
Brayden heard back later that day and was given the go ahead. He was also invited to work with MYHA’s planning committee for the event.
“I think it’s really cool that we got to come up with something for it,” Brayden said. “And the fact that people agreed with it, it turned into something bigger than just a 5K.”
At 10 years old, Brayden can add event planner to his resume.
“He’s been very involved,” RyAnn said. “He’s attended the meetings and thrown out ideas. He agreed on the dates, talked about pricing and helped design the T-shirts.”
Each person who registers will get a T-shirt, which was drawn up by Devon Manney, Brayden’s cousin, from the 10-year-old’s initial conception.
“Brayden thought of a logo with just grandpa John’s head and a Spud hockey hat,” RyAnn said. “He emailed his cousin, Devon Manney, and asked if he could draw it for him.”
Moorhead Hockey is hoping to turn the memorial 5K into an annual event that could be tied into the fall social, the association’s biggest yearly fundraiser, RyAnn said.