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August 1, 2014

By Chris Dickerson

SOUTH CHARLESTON – A local attorney and her husband have started a business that they hope combines college loyalty and exercise into “the ultimate celebration of school spirit.”

Tonya Shuler, an associate attorney at Moore & Biser in South Charleston, and her husband Daniel started Color My College earlier this year. The first event is scheduled Oct. 18 in Greenville, N.C.. on the campus of East Carolina University.

On Oct. 25, the Color My College 5K is scheduled for Morgantown and West Virginia University.

The couple started the company after last fall’s Color Run in Charleston.

“We signed up for the Color Run, but my husband, who is a soccer player, suffered a knee injury and couldn’t run,” Shuler said. “I still did, with my dad and brother in law.

“It occurred to us during that event that it would be cool to have these events in college towns and, instead of having a rainbow of colors for the runners to run through, to have just the school colors.”

The couple did research and discovered that, while there are a handful of companies coordinating these untimed 5K events where the runners are showered with colored powder at stations along the course, there were none that used custom colors.

“My husband is one of these business-minded types,” Shuler said of her husband, who is a soccer player and physical therapist assistant. “He’s always thinking of new things to do. He was home from work with the knee injury, and started researching this and saw that nobody else is doing this.

“So, we said why not! After all, it was the most fun I’ve ever had at nine o’clock in the morning. It was a blast.”

Shuler said that while these Color Run and Dirty Girl Mud Run types of event might be a trend and fall to the wayside, she believes their idea could have staying power.

“People might not be doing all of these runs down the road, but wearing people will be wearing their school colors from here to eternity,” she said. “This is something that might outlast a trend. It’s about school spirit.”

So far, the concept seems to be working.

“We’ve had a pretty good response so far,” Shuler said. “We’re learning the bureaucracy of the universities as we go. It’s certainly been a learning curve for us.”

The company isn’t using any athletic logos without permission. And it’s learning about getting all of the layers of approval needed for the race routes.

Shuler said East Carolina was different because it is being held completely on campus, so there wasn’t as much bureaucracy. But Morgantown is different.

“We need a 3.1-mile route for the race,” she said. “So we will end up on Morgantown city property, law school property, athletic department property and hospital property. We had to get permission from all of those groups.”

In addition to their jobs and starting this company, the couple also are the parents of triplets Liam, Finn and Melody, who turn two soon. Still, Shuler says the future is so bright for the company and its events, she and her husband have to wear shades.

“Once we get out there, it hopefully will catch on even more,” she said. “We’ve already had people coming to us to get us to come to their school, which is great.”

For example, after a post on the company’s Facebook page, there were more than 50 requests from Baylor University in one day.

“That was overwhelming, but great,” she said. “We want these events to be as big as they can be. But we’re just in our infancy, so we’re stilling learning everything.”

That includes learning lessons from the recent Dirty Girl Mud Run situation in Charleston. Event organizers ended up cancelling the event after some logistical issues, and entrants initially were told they wouldn’t receive refunds.

“There was a third party putting on that event in Charleston,” Shuler said. “We are just learning everything, but we want to make our event run as smoothly as possible. So we are taking everything in.

“Another example of the learning curve is that we first thought it would be great to have these events on football game days. That way, the runners could do the 5K in the morning, get covered in school colors and then go to the game.

“But we quickly learned that schools and college towns are not going to let such an event take place on a game day. It’s too much, plus we would be limited about where we could race and set things up. So now, we will be doing them on bye weeks or on away game weekends.”

Shuler said participants can expect a fun time at their events.

“We’ll have the event, of course, but we also will have music and a party afterward,” she said. “We will have four color stations along the route. In Morgantown, for example, the color stations will be blue then gold then blue then gold.

“And while we expect a lot of students to participate in our events, the run isn’t limited to students. It’s open to the public. But we do have a student discount, and we anticipate a lot of our runners will be students.”

Shuler said Color My College will work with student organizations at each school to select one or more charity causes to support.

“Our goal is to raise both awareness and funds for those causes,” she said. “Color My College donates a portion of every registration the selected causes.

“Also, participants are provided with an opportunity to make direct donations to the charities at the time of registration through our online registration website — 100 percent of those funds go to the charitable organization.

She also said the organization will donate 50 percent of all sponsorship monies received to the causes it is supporting.

“At WVU, we are working with the WVU Veterans Student Organization to benefit their efforts at the WVU campus, and also to benefit the Gene Vance Jr. Foundation,” Shuler said. “At ECU we are working with ECU’s Operation Smile Club, which helps fund cleft palette surgeries in developing countries, and Thrift Me Pretty, a local ECU start-up whose goal is to mentor and support young girls with limited funds make the transition from high school to college.”

For more information about the events, visit www.colormycollege.com.

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