Tailgating on Little River

Memorial kayak trip planned in honor of Zachary Goforth

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

* Memorial River Run FB page
* Aug. 26, 2014: Former county man dies in ATV crash
* Obituary

In Season 7, Episode 13 of the popular TV sitcom “How I Met Your Mother,” Marshall plans a post-New Year’s Day reunion with his late father at his gravesite. His original intent is to spend some one-on-one time with the man who meant the most to him, and sets up to listen to the Minnesota Vikings game and grill a burger just like his dad would have done.

Submitted photo Zach Goforth, left, and brother Austin head out for a paddle when the boys were both young. Being outdoors was second nature to Zach, his uncle said.

Submitted photo
Zach Goforth, left, and brother Austin head out for a paddle when the boys were both young. Being outdoors was second nature to Zach, his uncle said.

Over the course of the afternoon, though, so many others come to listen to the Vikings game and grab some food that the event evolves into an unexpected tailgate party in the cemetery. Marshall soon realizes that his father never would have turned anyone down for a burger, and concludes that by opening up the grill to others is the best way to honor is father.

That’s sort of what’s happened in the case of Travis Stutts. Instead of a cemetery and football, though, it’s Little River and kayaking. Stutts, along with Zachary Goforth’s mother and father, Staci Stutts Smith and Dale Goforth, is planning the inagural Zachary Goforth Memorial River Run.

The idea is to paddle the roughly 5-mile route along Little River on Saturday, May 9, beginning at the put-in at the Highway 731 bridge and head south to Highway 73. Afterwards, those that pay $10 will receive a T-shirt, which doubles as a ticket to a picnic lunch at Town Creek Indian Mound. The idea is to meet up at 11 a.m. at the Highway 731 access point. There is no cost to join the group kayak and canoe run.

“Myself, Staci, and Austin Goforth, his middle brother, and Dale have just kind of been talking with an idea of something to do on his birthday,” Stutts said. We thought having a kayak trip will be good. It started off as inviting (only) family members (with a) cookout.”

Submitted photo Zach Goforth placed third in the National Hunter Safety Education Skills Tournament in New Mexico in the shotgun competition.

Submitted photo
Zach Goforth placed third in the National Hunter Safety Education Skills Tournament in New Mexico in the shotgun competition.

There is no entry fee, Stutts said. “The river’s free. Everybody who wants to run it can come out and celebrate. It’s a way to get our clothes wet.”

Stutts admitted the idea has grown from there, sparked largely through interest on social media.

Goforth was killed early on Aug. 26, 2014 in an ATV accident at the age of 21. He was reportedly riding along County Line Road on the border between northern Richmond and southern Montgomery counties when he lost control of his all-terrain vehicle. A North Carolina Highway Patrol report indicated dust kicked up by another four-wheeler impaired Goforth’s ability to see. Police said Goforth ran off the road into a ditch and overturned.

Just before the crash, though, Goforth reportedly pushed another rider off the ATV to avoid injury.

Stutts, 10 years Goforth’s senior who said the two were more like brothers than uncle and nephew, said the 21-year-old was an avid outdoorsman. A football player at West Montgomery High School and placed third in the shotgun competition in the National Hunter Safety Education Skills Tournament in New Mexico. He was an served in the National Guard as a track vehicle mechanic — assigned to HHC, 30th Brigade, Special Troops Battalion and attached to Charlie Company, 30th Brigade, Special Troops Battalion.

His mother was a longtime teacher at Richmond Senior High School, throughout most of the 1990s until about 2007. Goforth was an active member at McLean Presbyterian Church in Ellerbe.

Submitted photo Zachary Goforth, taking aim.

Submitted photo
Zachary Goforth, taking aim.

“He enjoyed woodworking, loved the outdoors, hunting and fishing, biking and kayaking especially,” his obituary read.

The idea of opening up the Memorial River Run will convert the event into one slightly less intimate than the family originally had planned but, like Marshall, Stutts said it’s the best way to honor Goforth.

“Zach touched a lot of people,” Stutts said. “A lot of people really loved him. If he met someone, he was going to be friendly to him. You couldn’t leave being around him without feeling good. That’s just the way he was. I think we’re just kind of rollin’ with it.”

Stutts said his nephew had a quote by which he lived: “Be good to who you can, when you can.”

Asked what it mean to him, Stutts decided instead to share what he thought it meant to Zach.

“I believe it simply states that we are defined by the footprint we leave on others,” Stutts said. “Every day we make choices on how we impact the folks we encounter, and it’s up to us as individuals to make sure that impact is a positive one … because in the end, that’s all we are really trying to do here, share a positive impact with some good people.”

Submitted photo

Submitted photo

Stutts emphasized the event is BYOB — bring your own boat, referring to a kayak or canoe. He said he’s working with a local outfitter to possibly rent some kayaks for the trip. Tickets (with T-shirt) to the post-paddle meal are $15 for adults and $12 for kids. Proceeds will be donated to a local humane society.

For more information, email Stutts or visit the event Facebook page.

Filed in: Ellerbe/Norman, Featured News, Latest Headlines, Military and Veterans, News, Outdoors

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