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Running event to honor missing Montana woman

Sherry Arnold

GRAND FORKS - Sherry Arnold, the Sidney, Mont., woman who authorities said was kidnapped on Jan. 7, has inspired a "virtual run" that includes people from around the world.

Her cousin and event organizer, Beth Risdon, of Longmont, Colo., said people could take part wherever they are by printing out a "running bib" from her blog at, affixing the bib to their shirts and running, walking or riding their bikes at 10 a.m. CST Feb. 11.

"I got the idea for the run because after what happened to Sherry, there was a huge outpouring from the running community," Risdon told the Herald in an email. "People wanted to help, wanted to support the family. I thought a great way to channel that energy would be to have everyone run in Sherry's honor and memory, no matter where they were, all on the same day."

Besides the virtual run, Risdon has set up a fund for Arnold's two children, a boy and a girl. Donations may be made at any Wells Fargo bank in Arnold's name and online by PayPal, credit card or electronic check.

Among those running Feb. 11 will be Catherine Arnold, one of Sherry Arnold's three stepchildren, who is a second-year medical student at UND.

Catherine Arnold said by email Wednesday that she is inviting others at the university and throughout the area to join in the run, and may organize a local event. "The only thing I can say for certain is that I will be there, running for Sherry," she wrote. "After all, the very first mile I ever ran was with Sher."

Arnold, a popular math teacher, had disappeared during an early morning run near her home in Sidney, a town near Williston, N.D. Two men from Parachute, Colo., are in jail in Williston accused of her kidnapping. Her body has not been found.

The horror of Arnold's disappearance needed some response, Risdon said on her blog.

"As mothers, runners, and teachers, we fear it could have been us. Our hearts break for her students, her family, her community," she wrote, describing the day her cousin was last seen alive by family members.

Arnold couldn't often get in an early morning run before school during the week, Risdon wrote, but Jan. 7 was a Saturday, and Arnold planned to run and then meet her sister Rhonda.

"Her husband, Gary, had gone for a walk at 5:30 a.m. and when he returned home he could tell that Sherry had already left for her run because of the toothpaste splatters in the sink and a light that was on in the kitchen," Risdon wrote.

"Sherry often ran within the town limits and Jan. 7 was no exception," Risdon wrote. "When Sherry did not come home later that morning, however, her husband began to worry. He called the police and a search ensued. By 3 p.m. hundreds of volunteers were searching for Sherry and only one clue had been found, Sherry's right Brook's running shoe."

"My aunt called to tell me that 'something bad had happened in Montana,'" Risdon wrote. "As the details unfolded, a weight sat in the pit of my stomach. I hoped for the best, but feared the worst."

By Jan. 13, Lester Waters Jr., 47, and Michael Spell, 22, had been arrested. They're fighting extradition to Montana where aggravated kidnapping carries the death penalty.

Already 200 have posted comments on Risdon's blog, saying they will donate and run in Arnold's honor.

"I have heard of people participating in about every state and across the world in countries such as Ecuador, South Africa, Australia, Turkey, Italy, Spain, Norway and Venezuela, to name a few," Risdon said.

There will be "big runs" in several locales, including in Sidney, with registration opening at 8 a.m. at the high school gym, she said.

Catherine Arnold said she hasn't met Risdon, but loves the idea.

"We all miss Sherry greatly. She was an amazing person, the kind you wish more people had the chance to meet."

Catherine Arnold spent time with her family in Sidney after Sherry disappeared.

"I am back at school now, but visit with my dad daily,"she said Wednesday.

Her father, Gary Arnold, grew up near Richardton, N.D., east of Dickinson, and is an administrator in the Sidney school district.

Catherine Arnold said she and her family want to make a point of "thanking the public and the media for helping get the story out and all the support they have shown my family and me. It has meant a great deal to us to know that so many people care about Sherry."