What would Ret Thomas say if he were here, eight years into the event that honors his memory?
"He'd say it's too damn early to be awake," said Jen Newman, Thomas' sister.
After the initial grumbling wore off, though, he'd most likely revert to his humble self.
"Then he'd say, 'Thanks man.'"
The 8th annual Run for Ret proceeded as planned on a bright and sunny morning at Hilton Head Prep, with runners winding their way through the Sea Pine Preserve in memory of a good friend and in support of others who still need their help.
Suzanne Thomas, Ret's mother, could be seen bustling around from station to station all morning. She's got her hand in every portion of the festivities. A constant stream of friends come up to bid hello, offer hugs, kisses, handshakes, tokens of appreciation. Much like the son that has touched so many, Thomas appears to know just about everybody and enjoy their company.
"This is evident why you need volunteers," Thomas said as she made sure everything was in place before the race. "It grows every year. It started out very small."
It all started with her son's simple request. Overwhelmed by the generosity of others, Ret made his mother promise to find a way to give back. That's what she's been doing since his death from Ewing's Sarcoma in 2000 at the age of 15.
"From day one, that has been the motivation," Thomas said. "And we have helped a lot of people. He would think it is the right thing to do."
By the time the first runners reached the finish line, a crowd of well-wishers had lined up along the closing stretch. Markus Pingpank, a visitor from Germany who ran the race with his family, finished first. Prep's Jackson Henz crossed second, a result that was especially meaningful for him, given the context.
"It's great," Henz said after the race. "It's for a great cause. Gives you extra motivation."