What is Great Fun, Contributes to Good Health, Builds Community and Lends a Helping Hand?

The answer is the Kentlands/Lakelands 24th Annual 5K, Kids’ Runs & Merchant Expo.  Those who have participated year after year are well aware that there is fun for the whole family with kids’ runs, moon bounces, face painting and more.  Running or walking 3.1 miles with your friends and neighbors is great for both physical and mental well-being.  Becoming one of over 100 volunteers provides community engagement. A wealth of prizes for the run and raffle, combined with free goodies from our supportive local businesses are valuable takeaways.  Perhaps more important than all of these benefits is the opportunity to give back to those less fortunate in our community.

A recent visit from the leadership of the City of Gaithersburg Summer Camps Programs reminded me that the most important driver behind this signature Kentlands event is our ability to donate a significant portion of the proceeds to wonderful local beneficiaries. The largest beneficiary of the 5K is the Dolores C. Swoyer Scholarship Fund. This fund was named in memory of the daughter of a former City of Gaithersburg Planning Commissioner and citizen activist. Each year this fund provides financial assistance to underprivileged children to participate in the energizing and engaging experiences provided by the City’s summer camps programs offered to youth ages 4 – 14.  The camps are designed to promote positive youth development, physical and emotional well-being and enhanced social skills while fostering meaningful relationships with caring adult staff.  The children who receive this support would not otherwise be able to afford attendance.  Not only do they enjoy fun-filled on-site activities and a healthy lunch, but they have the opportunity to partake in educational field trips.

For the last few years, the 5K has been able to generate an annual donation of $10,500 to send these kids to camp. In 2016, the total amount of financial assistance awarded from the Dolores C. Swoyer Fund was $26,983 of which our donation comprised about 39% and enabled 38 children to participate. Over the past 15 years the 5K has generated donations totaling $142,856. For every $5000 – $6000 we donate, an additional five campers can attend for the entire summer. Those wanting to look at more fundraising ideas for other causes may want to consider crowdfunding as a strong option. The GoFundMe platform (https://www.gofundme.com/c/fundraising-ideas) has been a popular one amongst non-profits and charities trying to raise money to reach their goals.

Let’s not forget our other beneficiaries. For the past several years the 5K has also supported The Dwelling Place, a nonprofit based in Gaithersburg which supports homeless families in Montgomery County in their pursuit of self-sufficiency by providing housing, education, financial and life skills, and career enhancement.  Many of those families are also beneficiaries of the Dolores C. Swoyer Fund. Last but not least, we support Maryland Senior Olympics with a smaller donation.

A helping hand to underprivileged kids, homeless families and seniors. Who could be more deserving?  For those local businesses who may be on the “fence” about providing a 5K sponsorship this year, I ask you to consider stepping up to this worthy cause.  For local runners and families, I encourage you to sign up now.  So what if your plans change, the weather on September 2nd stinks or something else stands in your way?  Your registration will make a difference in the life of these kids and families.  For those corporations who have enough runners on staff to make up a team, let’s go!  Have fun, feel great and give back.  What could be better?