SYKESVILLE â€” Now in its 34th year, the annual Run/Walk for Someone Special is still going strong, and this year, it will take place on April 7 in Sykesville at the Town Hall.
Registration and activities will begin at 1:30 p.m. with the big event â€” the race â€” to start at 3 p.m.
The event has a long history in Western Pennsylvania. Pat Mowrey, one of the event organizers, said it began about 35 years ago, when his father was on a board in Jefferson County that worked with the mentally disabled.
Out of that board came Camp Friendship, located outside of
Reynoldsville on Route 322, a free summer day camp for individuals with mental disabilities, providing daily art, music, physical education and other classes taught by certified teachers, in addition to organized group activities such as a talent show, horseback riding and visits to the Carnegie Science Center.
â€śItâ€™s a beautiful place,â€ť Mowrey said. When the camp was first purchased from a now-dissolved Reynoldsville club, it needed to be refurbished, so attempts were made to find ways by which to raise funds.
At the time, Mowrey was a runner, so he suggested holding a fundraiser run to bring in some money.
â€śThe rest is history,â€ť he said.
The first year, it raised two or three grand, and it grew from there, culminating in last yearâ€™s take of about $70,000.
â€śEach year, it just kept building and building and building,â€ť Mowrey said.
All of the proceeds go to the Arc of Jefferson County, which provides advocacy and resources to area residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as to their families.
Camp Friendship is the ultimate recipient of the funds raised, using them to maintain the grounds as well to provide for more activities for the campers â€” outings to Pittsburgh Pirates games, trips to the zoo and many others.
Mowrey emphasized that all of the money stays local and goes directly to the cause it benefits.
â€śNone of us gets paid a dime for it, and none of us wants a dime for it,â€ť he said.
The last two years in a row both broke attendance records for Run/Walk for Someone Special, and the organizers are hoping for the same number or more this year.
â€śYou canâ€™t hit a home run every time you come up to bat, but we try to raise as much as we can,â€ť Mowrey said.
This year, he said he hopes for 500 to 600 people â€” more if possible.
The race begins at 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 7, but itâ€™s not the only activity going on that day, or even that weekend.
â€śEvery year, we like to do something new,â€ť Mowrey said, and this year is no exception.
In previous years, the event has been home to a number of side activities â€” in years past, itâ€™s hosted country line dancing and baseball card shows on the evening before the race.
This year, Saturday night will be host to a Zumbathon charity event from 6 to 8 p.m. with a $10 participation fee.
The organizers have also rented a tent this year where participants can gather in case of inclement weather â€” or simply to have a place to sit down and hang out.
The Pittsburgh Pirates Parrot will also be there to entertain runners and other guests. There will also be â€śtons of prizes,â€ť Mowrey said, including four Taylor Swift concert tickets that are being given away, in addition to a silent auction and other activities.
This year, Robindale Energy is the major sponsor, having donated $5,000 to the event, so its name will be appearing on the backs of the T-shirts available at the race.
The race features runners â€śages one to 99,â€ť Mowrey said. Some of them come to walk casually and maybe run here and there, while other participants are â€śeliteâ€ť runners from high school and college teams who compete in marathons regularly. Others jog or stroll â€” Mowrey said that, in the past, the event has seen parents pushing babies in strollers down the street.
There are prizes for those who manage to bring in the most money, as well as trophies and ribbons for the fastest runners in each category.
The race includes a two-mile fun run/walk and a five-mile race. Mowrey said the race kicks off with a prayer; then, he gets the crowd pumped up, and the runners take their positions.
â€śHopefully, everybody will have a good time, nobody gets hurt, and we raise some money for our organization,â€ť Mowrey said.
There are multiple ways to register. You can go to the Arcâ€™s website, www.jcarc.org, or contact event organizers by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also reach any of the organizers by phone: Mowrey at (814) 591-0949, Erin at (814) 952-0490 or Stacy at (814) 591-6622.
You can obtain registration forms from the website or have them mailed to you by one of the organizers. They are also available throughout Punxsutawney and the surrounding areas.
The forms are used to get sponsors in the community â€” family, friends, local organizations, etc. Simply write the names of the donors and the amount of money they each committed on the form. Then, on the day of the event, bring in the form and the money at registration time, and youâ€™ll be good to go.
And if you canâ€™t participate in the race, but you still want to lend a hand to the cause, any of the listed contact information can also be used to make a separate donation.