GLEN DALE - Heading into his junior year at John Marshall, Tanner Runkle had a list of things he wanted to do. Planning a trip to Australia wasn't one of them.
But soon after the school year began, the Moundsville native received a letter asking him to participate in the Down Under Sports Tournament played host to on the Gold Coast of Australia.
Now, Runkle and his mother, Stacie Morningstar, are looking for a way to collect the $10,000 needed to travel to the land down under for Runkle to compete in the three-day track and field event.
According to Morningstar however, the search is not going as well as she hoped.
"I went around and handed out nearly 60 donations letters personally and only eight or nine sent back donations," she said. "It's so disheartening. He's not only representing John Marshall and Marshall County, but the state of West Virginia."
Runkle is also disheartened by the results.
"It's kind of disappointing," he said. "I figured there'd be more people to help."
Down Under Sports was founded in 1989 with the belief that sport is the international language common to all countries and people around the world and that it can help remove cultural and international barriers.
The organization has recruiters in every state, and according to Morningstar, that is how they found out about Runkle.
"I guess a recruiter had been following him around to (the) state (tournament) for the past two years," she said. "They must have seen how well he's been doing."
The Monarchs track star says he had no idea that he'd be honored with an invitation to compete.
"I didn't expect anything like that," he said. "I was really excited. It'd be amazing to go."
"I'm not sure how many kids from each state are chosen each year," Morningstar said. "They only offer it to kids going into their senior year. No other kid from John Marshall has ever been picked.
"Everyone preaches to kids to do their best and when there's a chance for them to be recognized, there's no support. I'd like to see the community back the kids and see them recognized for their talents. We want the people behind him that he's representing."
A major source of the funds needed comes through voluntary contributions of family, friends and business sponsors.
"I'm trying to put together bake sales, indoor yard sales, spaghetti dinners and when the weather gets warmer, we want to do car washes. We just want to get as much as we can towards the trip," Morningstar said.
If everything goes as planed, the mother and son would leave for Australia on June 30.
"It's just such a big deal," Morningstar said. "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity."
Donations to support Runkle can be made at www.downundersports.com/make-payment.