The mission behind our 5k run

Our story

Why did we start this run?

Sophie and Ryan weren’t strangers to the rhythmic sound of sneakers against the earth, the steady breaths in sync with each stride. Cross country season meant tempo runs, long runs, and easy runs, but to them, it was less about the running and more about the moments in between. The laughter, the shared playlists, the camaraderie - that’s what made every step, every mile, worth it.

One crisp morning, amidst a run, Sophie tossed out an idea - “What if we organized our own 5k?” Ryan, never one to back down from a new adventure, was instantly on board. They wanted this to be more than just another race. It needed heart, meaning. That’s when the Autism Society of North Carolina came into the picture. It wasn’t just a cause; it was personal, a chapter of their Ryan's story.

While it started out as just a thought, it transformed into reality through the help and efforts of family and friends.

Our mission

What we hope to accomplish

Running is important to both of us; it has brought us to connect with people who are huge parts of our lives and it has allowed us to push ourselves more than we knew we could. Through the Byrd and Bear 5k, we hope to spread this appreciation, love for, and enthusiasm towards running. We also hope that our proceeds will go towards giving kids with autism a more enjoyable and fulfilling life.

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Meet the starters

Get to know those who started this run!

Ryan Byrd

Hey there! I'm Ryan, the Byrd in Byrd and Bear. Growing up, I faced my own challenges with autism, feeling a bit out of step with the world around me. But with time, patience, and the support of some incredible people, I found my rhythm and a circle of friends that changed my life. Running became a shared passion with my buddy Sophie, and together, we're on a mission to spread the joy of the sport and make a difference for others. I'm super pumped for the games and treats at the race – corn hole, spike ball, and more! Can't wait to see you all there and share in the fun!

Sophie Smart

Howdy! I’m Sophie and I put the Bear in Byrd and Bear. I started running with Ryan during my freshman cross country season and from that point forward, he was my favorite running buddy. My Grandfather, Harry Puckett, was one of the few guys who brought the Turkey Trot to the YMCA in Boiling Springs, so I am super excited to get to host a race with my buddy Ryan and spread a love for running. I cannot wait to run with all of you guys and have a great time this April!

Ready to join the cause?

Whether you decide to be a runner or a sponsor, or both, the time and resources you put in will have a great impact. We hope to see you at the run!