LACEY – They walked, they ran, they dashed, and they did it for a good cause during the 21st annual Lacey 5 Kilometer Run held recently at Gille Park.
Longtime Lacey Municipal Alliance Director Heather Scanlon was very pleased with the record turnout of over 300 participants. She thanked her many Alliance volunteers for their hard work, as well as Jim Wioland, who heads the Lacey Recreation Department, and Skip Peters who used his golf cart to serve as the “turtle” in monitoring those coming up at the end of the run/walk.
Along with the 5K race there was a one-mile fun run/walk and later a children’s kiddie-dash. An award program and refreshments were served afterwards in the park pavilion.
The overcast sky and cooler weather made for perfect conditions for the walkers, runners and dashers. Scanlon noted that proceeds from the race benefit substance abuse prevention, the recreation department and the Lacey Food Bank.
Township Mayor Peter Curatolo was back on the track to run once again this year and he was ready. He’s been running the 5 K since 2014. “I’ve been here either running or supporting so I’m ready to be embarrassed again by a middle schooler an octogenarian and Helen (Dela Cruz, former Lacey committeewoman) who will probably beat my time again. I’m trying to do my best to support and represent a good cause.”
“This is part of what makes Lacey great. It’s great to see all the kids of every age group here now supporting what the municipal alliance is which is prevention activities of underage drinking and drug use. Uniformly, we’ve said no to that in our town,” the mayor added giving thanks to Scanlon and Police Chief Michael DiBella and all the Alliance volunteers. “I’m grateful to all of them for that.”
Scanlon noted that it was a far cry from last year’s milestone 20th anniversary event which required temperature checks, mask wearing by spectators and a cap on the number of runners that could take place.
“We have a record number of registered runners this year. We have over 330 runners. I have so many wonderful volunteers this year too. I have at least 30 student volunteers so altogether we probably have about 60 volunteers here. We have more school teams this year. This is really good weather. Runners don’t mind some rain,” she added.
The rain held out, however, and by the time of the awards presentation, the sun peeked through as runners and walkers got to cool off and those who took part in the kiddie dash got to play.
“I think everyone is so excited to be able to do things again,” Scanlon added.
This year, they presented the Harry Papirman 90 and Above award. Papirman, of Whiting, has been running in the Lacey 5 K since 2005. This year he turned 90 “and so we created a special award in his honor.”
His wife couldn’t run with him this year due to health issues. “She is very upset that she can’t run. I had another runner who has been with me since the early days and it is so nice to see everybody who has come out year after year. That is how it is for a lot of these runners. They don’t always socialize with each other during the year but then they catch up with each other here.”
“There have been other races running a little longer than us but we are very proud to say that in 21 years we haven’t missed one and we were the first to do an in person race last year. Many others were cancelled,” Scanlon said.
The state cut funding to all municipal alliances last year due to the pandemic, she said.
“Our funds are still down 75% so it has been a challenge. We weren’t able to do a lot of programs that we normally do anyway because of the pandemic limitations at the schools,” she said. “That is why this is really important this year because we are trying to supplement our programs including our scholarship program which we usually give around $5,000 a year. It doesn’t come from a grant it comes from our fundraising. Ten percent of what we make today goes to the Lacey Food Bank as well.”
Following their run, three women were spotted celebrating their effort on the track. Lacey residents Dawn Smith and Carrie Ward are regulars at the event and this year their friend Stephanie Walter of Allentown joined them. They were dancing near the park pavilion.
“We’ve been doing this since the first one,” Smith said regarding the event.
“We love this event. We are so proud of our little town,” Ward said.
Smith said a lot of Lacey teachers are here “from when we graduated high school. They are here still running in this race and organizing it and it’s just fun.”