Fifty runners and walkers toed the starting line at the third annual Care2Run community five-kilometer race Thursday evening at Peninsula Grace Brethren in Soldotna. Half a world away, in poverty-stricken Sudan, the efforts and donations by the runners and race organizers will hopefully be felt.
The African nation has seen its share of turmoil in recent years, but fundraising efforts to help provide relief have been ongoing. Janice Habermann of Soldotna, along with Jenny Olendorff and Susan Pfaffe, have combined to help aid in the effort.
Sponsored by Peninsula Grace Brethren Church, the Care2Run 5K was designed to raise funds for the 100 Wells Campaign, which helps to provide clean water to the people of Darfur, a western region of Sudan. The campaign was created by the Persecution Project Foundation, one of the only nongovernmental organizations that still operates in Sudan. By drilling and repairing existing wells that have been damaged by bombing attacks, the foundation hopes to provide some measure of relief to those in need.
In its third year, the participation in the Care2Run race has jumped exponentially. Habermann said Thursday’s race saw 50 people sign up, exactly double from 2014.
“That’s really exciting for us to see,” said Habermann.
15-year-old Sean Verg-in won the men’s race over runner-up Mike Crawford, while the top women’s finisher was Kenda Blanning, who beat Connie Best to the line.
Habermann added that it’s been an evolving concern of the group of friends on the events unfolding in Darfur.
“After paying attention to just the sheer suffering of what’s going on over there, we decided we needed to do something,” Habermann said. “We have everything here, so what could we do to help those over there?”
Led by Sudan president Omar al-Bashir, the conflict has arisen from Arab militia groups that have carried out mass genocide on men, women and children of Darfur who oppose the regime.
Habermann said a $30 donation — the race entry fee — can provide water for one person for a lifetime, and one well can provide water for 500 people. With 50 signed up for Thursday’s run, it equates to $1,500 raised if everybody holds to the suggested donation, and that does not even include the amount already raised by the church.
Pfaffe wrote in an email that race donations brought in $2,384. Habermann said church members additionally put together a drive that raised $900. Many people were even submitting water bottles filled with spare change.
Overall, Peninsula Grace Brethren has raised $10,000 in three years with the 5K and other miscellaneous donations.
Race winner Verg-in is a freshman at Soldotna Prep, and said the race along the Unity Trail that connects Kenai and Soldotna was something that he entered on a whim. Women’s winner Blanning said she is running to train for upcoming summer races, but added that she wanted to support the 100 Wells Campaign effort as well.
“It is something that is dear to my heart,” Blanning said. “Janice really has the heart for it, so it means a lot to us.”
Also among the participating crowd was “Team Victory,” an assortment of friends that have combined to raise over $300 for the 100 Wells Campaign.
Ronna and Blair Martin — owners of the Diamond M. Ranch Resort on Kalifornsky Beach road in Kenai — created the group as a way to further boost the support for the 100 Wells Campaign.
“We wanted to do it because it’s just for a good cause,” Ronna Martin said. “We’ve done it for three years and we know that 100 percent of the funds go to help people in Darfur.”
Also a part of the group is the inspiring story of Kenai Peninsula Fair executive director Lara McGinnis of Ninilchik, who was seriously injured in a car accident in March. McGinnis, who was pushed across the finish line Thursday in a wheel chair, was the recipient of a massive outpouring of community support to help her heal up and take care of difficulties resulting from her crash.
Also taking part in the group effort was Angela and Klaus Beplat — Martin said that Angela recently returned home after having back surgery in Germany — John and Delores Lindeman of Ninilchik, Nicole Ticaskie, Darenne Ticaskie, Matt Ticaskie, Darius and Sonora Martin, and 5-year-old Quinton Beplat.