BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The sun was shining as hundreds participated in the 17th Berkeley Heights Charitable 5K Road Race and Fitness Walk on Sunday, Sept. 22 at Memorial Field. Dean Debonis, 16 years old, was the race winner with a finish time of 19:16.39. Jessica Braun was the women's division winner with a time of 20:15.45.
Participants of all ages came out to enjoy this friendly competition focused on health, fitness and family fun. The top three times per age group received Lucite award trophies. Melva Murray, age 81, finished in first place for the Ladies 80 and over division with a finish time of 54:47.94.
Mikah Parker, 13 years old, finished in 8th place overall and 2nd in the 11 to 14 year old age division with a time of 20:47.48. Mikah said,"I wanted to be under 20 minutes, but I'm really happy." He runs cross country for Central Middle School in Long Hill Township.
Dr. Patrick Smith, Race Director, was ecstatic for another beautiful day for the race. Due to the overnight rain, registration and sponsor booths were moved inside to the Recreation Center across the street. Participants and spectators enjoyed visiting the sponsor tables tasting healthy snacks and receiving pre and post-race massages and blood pressure screenings.
The Berkeley Heights Charity 5K Road Race and Fitness Walk was established in 1996 to help lend support to non-profit organizations and individuals in need. Since its inception, the event has raised over $140,000. "The Berkeley Heights 5K is about neighbors helping neighbors." sad Dr. Smith. "Without the generous support of our corporate and local business patrons and the dedication of our volunteers, our charity event would not be possible, which is another example of how great this community is, good people willing to give both time and money to help one another."
"We are here today to support the good work of Dr. Patrick Smith," said Mara Cruwys, Sales Associate for Weichert Realtors. The events sponsors want to give back to the community they serve. "We enjoy having a booth every year promoting fun and fitness," said Joe Hardigan from Gabriele Fitness.
Community spirit was soaring with many individuals and town organizations volunteering throughout the event. The Berkeley Heights Rescue Squad was present to aid racers in need along the course and at the finish line. The Berkeley Heights Rotary Club volunteer as their September service project in support of the work of Dr. Smith and community involvement. Mayor Joe Bruno was present cheering the athletes as they rounded the corner to the finish line.
During the awards ceremony, Dr. Smith presented three charitable organizations with checks for $1,000.
- The Wounded Warrior Project - Grassroots organization providing comfort to injured servicemen and women returning home from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- VFW post 6259 Berkeley Heights - provides resources for local vets and aids those at Lyons Hospital.
- Hope on the Horizon: An Expedition for ALS - raising awareness for ALS with hike and documentary.
Complete race results and photo gallery can be downloaded by visiting www.BerkeleyHeights5K.com. The Berkeley Heights Charitable 5K is sanctioned by the USA Track and Field Association and is a 500-point race in the New Balance New Jersey Grand Prix Series.
Again this year, the Berkeley Heights 5K/Red Cross Community Blood Drive took place during and after the race with more than 30 individuals donating life saving blood. As a thanks to all participants in this vital community event, the Berkeley Heights 5K held a special drawing for an iPad mini.
The Berkeley Heights Charitable 5K and interview with Dr. Patrick Smith and event sponsors will be featured on "This Week in Berkeley Heights," a 15-minute community news program aired weekly on Thursday evenings at 7 p.m. on Comcast 34 and FIOS 47, hosted by The Alternative Press of Berkeley Heights.