RICHMOND HILL — The Richmond Hill Rotary Club and Georgia Game Changers raised over $2,500 on Saturday to help eradicate polio during the Pacing for Polio 5K fundraiser at J.F. Gregory Park.
The race, which began at 6 p.m., drew about 65 participants. Rotarians Byron Atkinson, Laura McGee and Ray Pittman won their age and gender-group categories, and Atkinson led about 15 children in a fun race of their own. Rotarians Linda Bowers, Rich De Long, Ashley Roberts, Byron Atkinson, Lesley Francis and Teresa Merritt formed the committee that organized the event.
After all runners had crossed the finish line, prizes were awarded during a party at the Station Exchange.
The money raised from the race will be donated to Rotary International’s campaign to eradicate polio from the planet. Polio still is endemic in Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Rotary International runs a vaccination program for children in those countries.
Race participant Sgt. 1stClass Leona Brooks knows first-hand the devastating effects polio can have on a family.
“My grandfather actually contracted polio during the Korean War, and it was something that he dealt with while I was growing up and seeing him going through everything. … Obviously, we need to try and eradicate it. And also being a medic, the whole thing with immunizations, making sure people are immunizing their children against this,” she said.
Brooks, who is stationed at Fort Stewart, is no stranger to organized runs.
“I’m not an avid runner, but I’m in the military, so I run a lot doing the Army thing. But I tried to run extra to keep up with my soldiers and to try and keep young,” she said.
Rotary President Lesley Francis said she was so pleased with the success of the 5K, the club is looking at making it an annual event.
“This year, Rotary’s theme is to ‘Light up Rotary,’ and we are delighted with the success of our first Pacing for Polio race. The awards ceremony and after-race party were great fun, and it was wonderful to reach out to people in our community and tell them more about Rotary,” said Francis, who also served on the planning committee. “We first met to plan the event two months ago and probably spent over 200 man hours working on the event.”