SYKESVILLE — The weather may have mimicked more winter than spring this past week, but the sky opened up and poured forth warmth instead of rain Sunday afternoon for the 32nd annual Run/Walk for Someone Special.
The event broke records in both attendance and fund-raising, bringing out 412 participants and raising over $45,000 for ARC of Jefferson County and Camp Friendship, according to event organizer Frank Hetrick.
"We shattered the record," Hetrick said.
He should know. Hetrick did not run in the race, but he — like all of the rest of the volunteers — worked just as hard as any athlete who went home with a trophy.
Hetrick has participated in 31 of the 32 years the Run/Walk has celebrated. He credits the concerned community-minded citizens of Jefferson County and DuBois for making the event a success, even in trying economic times.
"The economy, as bad as it is, their pockets may be empty, but their hearts are full," Hetrick said. "They come out and support us."
Counting back to see how many years he has participated in the Run/Walk, George Zambory of Punxsutawney was shocked to realize he has given the event 20 years of support. Now, his children, their spouses and his grandchildren participate in the event.
It's the children, with their beaming faces and welcoming personalities, who attend the beneficial programs offered by ARC and Camp Friendship which keep Zambory returning to the pavement year after year.
"They're so happy. They live for this," he said. "This is like Christmas, New Year's and Thanksgiving all wrapped up in one for these kids. It's so heart-warming."
Event co-organizer Erin Cameron describes the Run/Walk as ARC's "No. 1 major fund-raiser.” Donations from the Run/Walk help maintain two different summer camps, autistic camp and an adult recreation and socialization group.
"If it wasn't for this, there wouldn't be camp," Cameron said, adding that all money generated by the Run/Walk stays local and benefits residents of Jefferson County and DuBois.
ARC is obviously important to DuBois residents Keri and Bill Cuba, who gathered 50 family members and friends to join the group Will's Walkers.
"It's amazing," Keri Cuba said. 'Bill and I both have said that we're so blessed. Will's brought all this (joy) to our lives. It makes you appreciate everything."
The family of four, which includes Will, two-and-half, and Emma, six, raised $2,000 just among themselves.
"We want the programs to be there," Keri Cuba said. "Even though Will's young, we know that the funds go to programs for kids with a lot of special needs. And it raises awareness."
Josh Golembiowski, 13, the son of Pastor Chris and Cheryl Golembiowski, of Punxsutawney, started raising money for the Run/Walk in February. He collected $4,688 this year, bringing his fund-raising total to over $21,000 the past five years.
"He's amazing," Cheryl Golembiowski said.
In addition to sending letters to family members, the Golembiowskis place donation cans around town, and Josh also stakes out a collection spot at County Market.
"It's a little bit hard to say no to Josh," his mother said.
Punxsutawney Phil and members of the Groundhog Club Inner Circle also couldn't say no to attending the event — Phil made his first appearance at the Run/Walk Sunday.
"He's liking it. He had a good time over," said Inner Circle member A.J. Dereume, aka The Rainmaker, who was on hand with his top hat.
Phil made it to the Town Hall, despite the Philmobile breaking down three times on the way from Punxsutawney, according to Dereume.
"We coasted in," he said.
Whether runners and walkers coasted through the finish line or not, it made no difference.
Though trophies are awarded, the event, which includes adults and children of all ages and even some canine participants, is more about support than competition. And every year, that support just seems to grow stronger.
"The last three years, we've broken our own record," Hetrick said. "It's just really taken off. It's been unbelievable."