Closer Look

Linn’s journey from trainer to community promotor

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Anna Waskey

Anyone who has lived in this community for any length of time has probably seen or met Dave Linn. He attends town and county meetings, chit-chats with people in the community at festivals and local establishments, and dons various hats during fundraisers and special events. 

Linn is an events promoter extraordinaire. 

“I moved to Franklin in August of 1997 from Ocala, Fla,” said Linn, explaining that his family had owned a getaway cabin in the area. “I wanted a new experience, enjoyed every minute of [being in Macon County], and became a full-time resident after that summer.”

FOR 25 years, Dave Linn competed in triathlons, despite physical challenges.

Further grounding him to the area was his wife of 17 years, Vanessa, who is a native of Macon County. Vanessa is a pre-K teacher, and the couple has two children, Jaxon, who is now 13 years old, and Marleigh, who is 11 years old.

Before Linn was an event promoter, he was a physical therapist and personal trainer. What prompted him to first pursue a career as a physical therapist and personal trainer was his own life-long affliction; Linn was diagnosed with cerebral palsy on his left side when he was four years old. He credits his family for raising him with a determined streak. 

“They gave me a tough skin. They would push me to break through every barrier and they would push me to the max; that’s the thing about them,” stated Linn.

In fact, he has never been one to back down from a challenge.

 “The biggest thrill of my life was that I was the first individual in the state of Florida with cerebral palsy to play wide receiver on a varsity team,” he said.

Evolving career path

“Since I always had to go to physical therapy [due to having cerebral palsy], it was my goal to give back and help out others,” said Linn.

After receiving the necessary training and certificates, Linn provided services at various regional establishments, from Franklin Health and Fitness Center to Old Edwards Inn in Highlands.

DAVE LINN and Tim Crabtree with television journalist Jamarcus Gaston during a past ’80s Flashback Weekend event.

Despite physical challenges, for 25 years Linn was a triathlete, completing in more than 72 triathlons. When asked what prompted his passion for triathlons, Linn responded, “I was challenged by one of my clients. I did my first triathlon in Hiatuses, Ga., and the next thing I knew, I was addicted. I began doing one, sometimes two, every weekend.” 

In 1999, Linn became the first unassisted individual with cerebral palsy to compete in the Lake Chatuge Sprint Classic, Hiawassee, Ga. In 2009, he won the Nautica New York City Olympic Triathlon. After that apex, he decided to retire from competition. But it was because of his years competing and how the Macon County community supported him that motivated Linn to decide in 2013 to focus full-time on fundraising and promoting, instead of physical therapy and personal training. 

CHICK-FIL-A EMPLOYEE Rosie Wright was present when a check for Shriners Children’s Hospitals was donated to Dave Linn by Caleb Peters, owner of the Chick-fil-A in Franklin.

“This community has always been very supportive of a lot of the things I’ve done,” he said. “One day [while competing], one of my [triathlon] bikes was stolen and it was a good amount of money, over $5,000. Within three to four days, the community came together to help me buy a new bicycle. After that, I promised myself that I would dedicate my time and effort to help other people.” 

So, he began organizing fundraisers. 

Linn oversees a variety of fundraisers for different nonprofits in Macon County. 

“I do anything from the Daniel Braveheart 5-K for the Scots-Irish Museum to the Moonlight Moonshine 10-K for the Cowee School [Arts & Heritage Center],” said Linn. Recently, he organized fundraisers for CareNet and the Smoky Mountain Pregnancy Care Center.

Not only is Linn active in the community by helping nonprofits, he spends much time and effort working with the Shriners Children’s Hospitals and Smoky Shriner Club of Franklin. Given his history of being cared for at Shriners Hospitals in Greenville, S.C., and Tampa, Fla., Linn promised himself that he would one day give back. 

DAVE LINN holds a check representing last year’s fundraising efforts for Shriners Children’s Hospital totaling more than $27,000. This year’s goal is $35,000.

“I have been a Mason for seven years now, and I became a Shriner four years ago. My goal was to give back to the Shriners Children’s Hospital for what they did for me.” 

He is now a Shriners’ ambassador. The position puts Linn in charge of every area fundraiser, the biggest event being the ’80s Flashback Weekend, held annually the first week of August. 

“I coordinate each event, and we make sure to have fun with them by having raffle prizes, pageants, etc. We do a variety of different things to bring attention to the mission of the hospitals,” explained Linn.

In fact, a kick-off fundraiser for the ’80s Flashback Weekend was held at Currahee Brewing Co. this past Saturday to benefit Shriner’s Children’s Hospital. Cabin Fever – Eat Drink & Escape the Cold ’70s Style, included Kash Karaoke, raffles, costume contests, and a DJ. The goal for the year is $35,000. 

As an ambassador, Linn also helps parents get their children into Shriners’ hospitals to get the care they need. Shriners began with a small group of men in the New York City area who wanted to give back to their community in some way. The organization celebrated its 150th year anniversary on Feb. 25. The club in Franklin began in 1958 and has helped more than 128 children in Macon County. Twenty-two Shriners hospitals operate around the world, teaming up with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospitals and Ronald McDonald Houses, as well.

“The patients do not pay a dime for any of the services, so that is why we use fundraisers to help the cause,” explained Linn.

While Linn enjoyed physical therapy and personal training greatly, promoting events, giving back to the community, and assisting with the Shriners has become his new life’s goal. 

“Different individuals have influenced me and inspired me to keep going,” he said. “Fundraising is most rewarding to me … seeing the benefits for individuals and groups.” 

Anna Waskey is an honors student at Franklin High School.