Fundraising race honors fallen soldier

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Runners participate in the annual Reindeer Dash for Cash on Sunday in Greenville.


The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

GREENVILLE — Dawn Cash-Salau still feels the heartbreak of losing her husband, Capt. Christopher Cash, who was gunned down in an ambush while on a pre-dawn patrol on June 24, 2004, in Baqubah, Iraq. 

Prior to his deployment with the North Carolina National Guard, Cash worked at ViQuest Center as an exercise physiologist.

“There he helped people with their health and fitness, which is all about who he was. In the National Guard, when he was deployed, he worked with the Iraqi people, helping them build the school system that had been destroyed and rebuild their irrigation systems,” Cash-Salau said. 

And Cash-Salau remembers the day she got his belongings back. In them were handwritten cards and other items from Iraqi children who had been touched by Cash’s life of service to others.  

“When I got all of his belongings back, I had just a ton of cards from the Iraqi children that they had written to him while he was alive and letting him know what he meant to them,” Cash-Salau said. “To me, that’s an amazing legacy to leave.”

To honor her husband’s legacy, more than 750 runners from across North Carolina came out Sunday to pay their respects and raise thousands of dollars for college scholarships during the annual Reindeer Dash for Cash, held each year in the fallen soldier's memory in Greenville.  

“It’s a wonderfully emotional day for me to see all these people come out and cheer. ... We’ve had about 750 runners, and to see the community come together and help us continue Chris’ legacy of helping others is just so emotional and wonderful to be a part of this,” Cash-Salau said. 

According to the Christopher Cash Foundation website, reindeerdashforcash.org, the races over the past 14 years has raised more than $264,305. Of that amount, $109,174 was used to create an endowment at N.C.Wesleyan College, where Cash earned his first undergraduate degree.

The second endowment of $35,000 was created in 2014 at the College of Health & Human Performance at East Carolina University, where Cash earned a second undergraduate degree and a master’s degree. 

“Every year, we’re able to award between $15,000 to $20,000 to college scholarships in Chris’ memory,” Cash-Salau said. 

Scholarships are awarded to students who embody Cash’s life passion and plan to follow in his footsteps by pursuing a military career or a degree in a health-related field. 

And the annual race, which is held each December, embodies everything Cash-Salau’s former husband loved.  

“Chris loved running, he loved Christmas and he loved education, so the Reindeer Dash for Cash brings all of those traits together and carries out his legacy,” Cash-Salau said.  

She said if her husband were alive today, he would be proud of the event and to see so many families come together for such a good cause.  

“I think he would be in awe and very humbled to know that he was loved and he touched so many people in his lifetime. That’s a good legacy to leave ... to know that you’re helping and people still remember and talk about it 14 years later,” Cash-Salau said.  

And while nothing can ever replace Cash, turning her husband’s death into something positive provides some much-needed solace, Cash-Salau said.   

“I don’t know that there’s ever full closure. For me, especially in the early years when I was able to devote so much of my energy toward something positive that carried on Chris’s legacy of helping others, it did so much to help my grieving process. Even now, 14 years later, it’s typically a very emotional day for me. It’s the buildup of all the work and the excitement and to see everybody come out, and every year, I have people come out and tell me what Chris meant to them,” Cash-Salau said.  

To learn more about the Christopher Cash Foundation or to donate, visit reindeerdashforcash.org