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A Run to Honor a Friend and Help Traumatic Brain Injury Research

Three close buddies of Matthew “Matt” Gfeller dreamed up a fun way to raise money in their friend’s memory.

John Lineberger, Camden Francis and Thomas Keshian knew that Matt loved running, live music and Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Thus was born the Matt Gfeller Memorial Doughnut Run, which has since become a Winston-Salem tradition. It honors the 15-year-old Reynolds High School sophomore, who was starting his first varsity football game in 2008 when he suffered a fatal traumatic brain injury.

Last year’s Gfeller Run raised more than $50,000 for traumatic brain injury prevention, research and treatment. Half of the money goes to the Childress Institute for Pediatric Brain Trauma located at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. The other half goes to the Matthew Gfeller Sports-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Matt Gfeller Memorial Run

Matt’s father, Robert G. “Bob” Gfeller, is executive director of the Childress Institute, as well as vice president and chief marketing officer of Wake Forest Baptist. He knows the importance of fundraising to the Childress Institute and the Gfeller Research Center. Beyond support for research, he says, the doughnut run raises the profile of traumatic brain injury in children and ways to prevent injury.

In addition, the run itself is a way to remember Matt, a teenager with a joy not just for sports, but for life. Matt was a talented stage performer, he loved fishing and the outdoors, and he had earned the rank of Eagle Scout. 

And, of course, there was his love of doughnuts, especially Krispy Kreme.

The 5K run is for competitive runners, as well as neighborhood walkers and families. Students from Reynolds High provide music along the course. There are doughnut and no-doughnut categories; those who choose the Krispy Kreme option are greeted by students at the halfway point to eat a half-dozen. Bob Gfeller says his son liked to take six Krispy Kremes, “stack ‘em and squish ‘em.”

He says one of the most rewarding things about the race occurs later—when he receives letters of thanks from participants.

After the most recent race, for example, Bob Gfeller received a letter from a young man who wrote about how years earlier, when he was small, Matt had taken him “under his wing’’ and helped him understand the fundamentals of football. The young man credited Matt Gfeller with giving him the confidence that has helped him in life.

More About The Matt Gfeller Memorial Doughnut Run

The race has raised more than $250,000 overall since it began in 2009. This year’s 8th Matt Gfeller Memorial Doughnut Run will be Saturday, Nov. 12. More information is available at

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