LACEY – Evan Aguiar decided he’d spend his birthday on the run this year. More precisely, he’d be running for the first time in the 20th Annual Lacey Municipal Alliance’s 5 Kilometer Run.
The event celebrated two decades recently in Gille Park. The Alliance is dedicated to combat substance abuse through various programs and events. The Alliance has been sponsoring various programs to assist with substance abuse for decades.
Aguiar of Tinton Falls joined his friend Alexis Geebia of Toms River for the Alliance’s event. This marked their first run.
The race was also personal for Aguiar who said, “I am a recovering addict as well. We’re shooting between 30 and 40 minutes. We’re here for exercise and to support the cause.”
Lacey runner Keith Apostolos joined his sister for his third foray into the Alliance event. He was showing off this year’s T-shirt and logo design which Alliance members were especially proud of this year.
Longtime Alliance Coordinator Heather Scanlon said this year’s race proved exceptionally challenging given the pandemic but that it was important that it go on as planned to mark its 20th anniversary. She and other volunteers were pleased that it occurred without a hitch.
“This year we have about 220 runners. We put a cap on it. We couldn’t do on-site registration. Last year we had 400. With the governor’s guidance we had to strip it down and simplified everything. We eliminated the one-mile fun run and kiddie dash,” Scanlon said.
“From the very beginning (of the pandemic conditions) the governor froze our funds. In reality we couldn’t do programs anyway but now our funds have been cut through June of 2021 because our fines come from fines that have been accessed from DUIs and DWIs and people haven’t been going to court therefore the funds aren’t in there,” she added.
“We had our funds slashed by like 70%. We were supposed to get this coming year about $38,000 and then the township manages part of it. It is a challenge which is why we decided we would try and do the race,” she said.
Income from the race helped to subsidize the programs that the Alliance could do which she said would include some virtual after-school programs this fall. She noted that this pandemic has been stressful for students. “It puts them more at risk with experimenting with drugs and alcohol.”
The race had a temperature check-in station and masked were required (except for the runners). “The volunteers really enjoy doing this race. The decision to go on with the race weighed very heavily on us. Back in March we thought, ‘oh by August we’ll be fine.’ But as time went on we realized how the chances of not having it were growing,” Scanlon said.
Lacey’s Alliance was among the very first ones in the state to be able to host an in-person race as a fundraiser this year. Other events in the township like Lacey Day may not be possible to hold.
For this event, “we can’t even give out the food we normally give out but the runners are thrilled to have something in person. We basically did this in two months,” Scanlon said, noting her son Chad and his dog Hannah were participating in the race.
Lacey Deputy Mayor Pete Curatolo was among the runners of the day. “There were a lot of challenges to putting this on. This community really put it together well. You get a temperature check, there were some questionnaires that went out. It was a great application process. I’m really proud of our Recreation Department and the Municipal Alliance, the police department that helps us out every year and everyone right across the board.”
“We have a great turnout and there was even social distancing at the start as the runners have a small tag behind their number and that enables them to have their exact start time and finish time listed and marked off. We’ve really taken some good precautions,” he added.
Curatolo added, “I’m proud of the whole community get behind an effort to fight underage drinking and drugs so this is a great physical activity for everyone involved.”