Ask anyone who has ever done it, and they will tell you that organizing a 5K charity race is anything but easy.
There’s picking a venue, setting and securing the course, promoting the race and recruiting participants, coordinating with a charity partner and of course everything that goes into the race day itself: t-shirts, prizes, drinks, entertainment, etc. etc. etc.
The effort involved in planning can make it difficult for even popular races to continue their momentum – and to keep organizers involved.
Yet Ryan Kennedy, impresario of the annual Delaware KIDS Fund 5K – which just celebrated its tenth year – seems to have found a secret recipe. Kennedy, who joked yesterday that when the race started he had hair, no wife and no children (all that has changed), has helped grow the race into a major vehicle for community engagement and charitable giving in the town of Newport.
Kennedy took the stage to announce the winners of yesterday’s event, celebrate all that had been achieved by participants and sponsors over the last decade, set some ambitious new goals and recognize special people who made it all possible.
Husband and wife are race champions
The race winners were familiar names to many in Delaware’s running community – and it happens to be the same one. Wife-husband duo Elizabeth “Liz” Swierzbinski and Anthony Swierzbinski each crossed the tape first in their divisions, at 18:53 and 18:36 respectively, a ‘married’ first for the race (and only the second time the Swierzbinskis have both won the same race).
The Swierzbinskis are two of the best runners in the state – Liz was recently the top Delaware finisher in the Boston Marathon and is a three-time Caesar Rodney Half-Marathon women’s champion (2015, 2016, 2018). Fittingly, the couple are Newport residents.
Anthony gave his wife – they are both Caesar Rodney High School grads – all the props: “She’s run a lot of races. I usually don’t win too many. So, I’m usually the one that’s holding us back from the awards.”
Liz, who ran track at UD and now works at the Delaware Running Company in Newark, said it was “fun” to be on her husband’s heels the whole race. “I could see him the whole way – it was pretty exciting. We try to do this race every year just because it’s so close and it’s a great cause.”
Race proceeds will stock a new school food pantry for three years
After congratulating the Swierzbinskis and recognizing other top finishers and flight winners, Kennedy announced that more than $30,000 has been raised by the race.
Last year’s proceeds went to a new food pantry at Richey Elementary School; this year’s recipient is Richardson Park Elementary, a school near Banning Park that runners passed on their route. Kennedy said enough money had been raised to immediately launch a food pantry at Richardson Park – which beginning this fall will be stocked with fresh and healthy food for the students.
Kennedy is a vice president with Harvey, Hanna and Associates, a developer that has made a significant commitment to investing in Newport’s revitalization, is also director of the Delaware KIDS Fund, which was established to support children’s health and education in an area impacted by economic challenges.
“We started the food pantry initiative because there aren’t enough of these resources in schools with high poverty rates,” he said. “When we opened the Richey Elementary food pantry last year, we learned that it was the only one of its kind in the Red Clay School District, and other schools with high poverty rates could benefit from better nutrition. Healthy food and activity are fundamental to a child’s ability to learn — students will perform better in school, feel motivated, feel inspired, develop strong self-esteem and ultimately grow up to be our next community leader, first responder, teacher and beyond.”
Kennedy says the Delaware KIDS Fund is set to open five food pantries in five years in five schools.
New river trail will connect Newport to Jack Markell Trail
Yesterday’s race included the participation of state senator Anthony Delcollo, senator Jack Walsh, representative Kim Williams and county councilman Ken Woods. Kennedy thanked the officials for their work on a transformational asset for the Newport community: creation of a river trail that would connect downtown Newport to the Jack Markell Trail.
Recognition for longtime employee and Delaware KIDS Fund volunteer
This year’s Delaware Kids Fund 5K also included a bittersweet recognition of a longtime volunteer who passed away just months ago.
Helen Gilmore, Harvey Hanna’s second employee, was not sitting at this year’s registration table, happily signing in runners as she had every previous year. However, that table was newly dubbed the Helen Gilmore Registration Center. Gilmore’s family was on hand to remember their loved one and celebrate the creation of the new Gilmore Award for the event’s volunteer, Pat Dougherty.
Kennedy reflected on the ten years of success and how so many people came together to pull it off, including the race management team of Wayne and Barb Kursh of Races2Run.com.
“The race is an example of ‘community strong,’ which is always inspiring to witness and be a part of… first responders, local legislators, volunteers, runners, walkers, sponsors from business of all sizes, people of all ages,” he said. “A lot of different groups from different backgrounds and experiences working together for the greater good of our community. You can’t lose when everyone is working together for a better future.”