Fourth annual SMART5.29K event May 19

Apr 30 2018

Tiffany Dunford was diagnosed with endometrial cancer about 10 years ago. She and husband Terry could not have children.

Faced with that reality, the two embraced future adoption as a way to have a child. “Kids out there need a loving home,” Terry says.

Life looks better for the Dunfords now. Tanner is no longer a foster child – he is the Dunfords’ 17-month-old adopted son. He continues to recuperate from past early developmental problems. The couple finished official adoption only 10 months after agreeing to foster him as a two-week-old. And, hardly as an aside, 34-year-old Tiffany is cancer free.

The Dunfords were caring for Tanner, born to a drug-addicted mother, and two girls under the age of two when outside circumstances took the girls to another adoption placement. Devastated at losing the girls, the two nevertheless focused on teaching Tanner basic motor skills, such as taking a bottle, in hopes he would be theirs.

With the help of the Fort Hill Child Development Center and the Birth to Three program, Tanner is making great strides. Dunford said despite the child’s condition at two weeks old in NICU, he spotted his future son right away upon entering the room.

“I do think everything happens for a reason,” Dunford said. “When I walked in the NICU I immediately knew that first bed was where he was. I knew right then and there that was our kid.”

As Tanner continues to catch up on a disadvantaged birth with the help of fantastically committed parents, the Dunfords have at least $1,200 in a SMART529 college savings account. That’s the amount State Treasurer John Perdue’s office, in conjunction with Mission West Virginia, awarded the family last November after a selection process.

Proceeds to fund Tanner’s SMART529 accounts were raised during the third annual SMART5.29K Run/Walk last year. Ove a three year perios a total of $37,000 in college funds has been awarded to children adopted from foster child.

Now plans are in the works for the fourth race. The race begins 9 a.m. May 19 at Appalachian Power Park and winds along Piedmont Road to the State Capitol and back. The race is both a reference to 529 tax code and the upcoming National College Savings Day, celebrated each year May 29. For more information, go to

“We’re so thrilled as an office to do this for the fourth year in a row,” Perdue said. “This subject is dear to my heart and something we all feel great about here in my office. Foster children have only a three percent chance of going to college, because of the chaotic existences they often lead. This is an ongoing attempt to bring some stability and normalcy to their lives.”

Over the last three years, the event’s proceeds have been divided between 31 families of children adopted from foster care. Awards go into the children’s SMART529 college savings accounts. SMART529 is so named for its nod to specific IRS tax code. Race proceeds come from entry fees and sponsorships.

Awards are made in partnership with Frameworks, the adoption arm of Mission West Virginia. Frameworks selects families to receive shares of proceeds. Other sponsor partners are the Children’s Home Society, Braley and Thompson, NECCO, KVC and Pressley Ridge.

“It’s amazing to think of all the donations and hard work,” Dunford said. “Everybody has partnered together to invest in these kids and their futures. Treasurer Perdue’s office doesn’t have to get involved in this. He did it on his own. He saw the opportunity and made it a public issue. Now there’s a race for the kids.” 

Dunford said he realizes not everyone has the time, inclination or even ability to run or walk more than three miles on May 19. That’s why he urges folks to make electronic donations at, the Treasurer’s Office website. A link to the race registration/donation page is located in the rotating graphic banner on the home page. Just look for the SMART5.29K Run/Walk Logo.

Treasurer Perdue, staff and volunteers hold a luncheon at the Clay Center each November, to distribute the awards. Families are accommodated well, Dunford said, from a delicious meal to other details, such as ice cream, a Build-a-Bear worksop and a tour of the Clay Center children’s museum.  

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