Humble and kind are the two words Tiffany Heins used to describe her late father, Mark Hecker.
Butler County sheriff for 16 years, Hecker's generosity was on full-display around the holiday season. In 2012, he started Stuff the Cruiser, a fundraising event aimed at collecting toys and food for families in need over the holidays.
Not only did Hecker dress up as Santa Claus at the event, but he was a man who truly embodied the spirit of giving. So with his passing on Aug. 12, 2014, at the age of 53, the community was at a loss.
In his honor, The Mark A. Hecker Staching Through the Snow 5K Memorial Run was founded, said Race Director Patti Lee-Smith. The goal of the event is to raise funds to support Stuff the Cruiser, the David City Backpack Program, the Butler County Ministerial Association and several others.
“He always believed it was better to give than receive. So we continue to want to keep that going on and support Stuff the Cruiser,” Heins said.
The 5th annual 5K will be held at 10 a.m. Nov. 17. The start and finish line will be at the David City Auditorium, 699 Kansas St. Vendor booths will open at 8 a.m. Lee-Smith said race participants are encouraged to bring non-perishable food, books or toys to be donated for Stuff the Cruiser.
“It’s about community, and it’s about bringing people together,” Lee-Smith said of the race.
Race registration is $25 and can be done online at www.getmeregistered.com. Students can run for free or register for $10 to receive a free T-shirt. Last year, 179 people participated in the run raising $3,000. This year, Lee-Smith said she’s hoping to meet or exceed those numbers.
Heins said her father was the kind of man who always put the needs of others before his own. And while others opened gifts on Christmas, the sheriff worked.
“He would purposely take over the shifts of his officers as a way to allow them more time with their family,” Heins said. “So we never had Christmas on Christmas. We always had Christmas at other times because we knew the importance of giving to people.”
Hecker was a member of Redeemer Lutheran Church, the Sheriff's Association of Nebraska, David City Rotary, TeamMates Mentoring, Butler Believes in Youth and Community, Butler County Coalition and David City Booster Club. He delivered Meals on Wheels, coached softball and baseball for his children and promoted and assisted with Toys for Tots.
“He was in all these groups, all the time and his purpose was to give back,” Heins said. “He doesn't need a pat on the back, he doesn’t need a thank you, he just did it because that’s what you do, and that's how he raised all of us."
Hecker's spirit of giving is alive and well at the race, Lee-Smith said.
Recently, all of the event organizers decided to make this the final year of the race. Lee-Smith said many of the event staff have found it difficult over the years to balance running the event on top of other commitments, such as work and child raising. So they collectively decided to end the race and have this year be a celebration of Hecker's life and of law-enforcement in general.
"It's bittersweet, Lee-Smith said about the race ending. "As my responsibilities increase and as we get busier with our personal lives, now is a good time for a finale."
Eric Schucht is a reporter for The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at email@example.com.