Caleb Coogan Memorial 5K won by his friend, Landon Smith

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[March 13, 2018] 


On Saturday morning in the hilltop town of Mount Pulaski, the Mount Pulaski Grade School hosted a 5K walk/run in honor of Caleb Coogan. Coogan died last September in an ATV accident in rural Mount Pulaski.

Coogan was a 6th grade student at Mount Pulaski Grade School known for his smile a mile wide, his work boots that made a stomping sound throughout the hallways and his willingness to always lend a helping hand. He also had a love for tractors, orange and black Case in particular, and really anything mechanical.

Coogan's genuine personality sparked a "Kind like Caleb" slogan that originated at his first school, Zion Lutheran of Mount Pulaski. One of Coogan's classmates, Cori Clark, even came up with the idea of orange bracelets that read, "Kind like Caleb" and she sold a ton of them.

When the over 1,500 people attended Coogan's visitation last fall at the Mount Pulaski Christian Church Family Life Center, several of his young friends said through their tears, "Caleb liked everyone." Another little girl sobbed and said, "Caleb was never rude to anyone." Her friends nodded in agreement. "I have never seen Caleb without a smile on his face," said another one of his friends.

A community mourned and a community comforted one another ~ together. And the faith and resilience shown by the young people helped everyone begin the healing process in the months that followed. The children never forgot Caleb, nor will they ever. The boys even held an open spot at lunchtime for Caleb at the cafeteria table. Saving Caleb a seat like true friends. His huge circle of friends, who ranged from athletes to farm kids, with a variety of interests in between, by all accounts, adored him.

On Saturday those kids, and there were lots of them, were at the front of the line to start the 5K race in honor of their friend.

One friend in particular, Landon Smith, was a classmate of Caleb's and he apparently ran like the wind during Saturday's cool early morning race and he finished ahead of the pack. Smith finished the race with a time of 21:21. Even Brooke Ciaccio, organizer of the 5K, agreed, "He must have sprinted the whole thing."

Ciaccio, a teacher at MPGS, was quite pleased with the event that also served as a fundraiser for the school's playground. "The 5K was a huge success," said Ciaccio. "We had right at 200 runners of all ages. We had many parent and teacher volunteers, as well as high school students from the baseball team, Student Council and National Honor Society." All in all around 50 volunteers helped with the event.

One of Caleb's dear friends who is far removed from his school days, Don Maxheimer, also helped organize tractors along the race route and uptown on the square. "Tractors were surrounding the finish line and placed throughout the route," said Ciaccio. "The Industrial Arts and Art classes built the finish line as well. It was a great team effort by everyone involved."

"The race put us over our final goal for the Caleb Coogan Memorial Playground, which will be installed this summer," said Ciaccio.

Kara Davis of PASE confirmed the goal for the playground was reached and added, "We are going to vote on the final plan Monday night. It will be installed after school is out. We are hoping for June."

One final note on Caleb Coogan. He touched a lot of lives in his short time here on this earth. He was often seen at the local Casey's General Store sitting around the table talking to the older generation. He would get up and offer his seat to an elder if necessary. He even told his buddy and fellow tractor club member, Don Maxheimer, "If I had a sleepover with all my friends there would be some who couldn't get up off the floor." If you knew Caleb, you could easily just picture the scene. If you didn't know Caleb, hopefully you just got a little glimpse into the kind of young boy he was.

[Teena Lowery]

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Lincoln Mayor Seth Goodman crosses the finish line.

JC Coogan, father of Caleb, and Claire, Caleb's sister, finish the race just behind Gary Allspach.

Photos by Rob Siebert



Caleb Coogan


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