BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - A YMCA Mother's Day tradition in Berkeley Heights took full advantage of the gorgeous weather Sunday morning. Close to 1,000 runners took part in the 13th annual Summit Area YMCA  Mother's Day 5K Race running the USATA-sanctioned neighborhood route through downtown Berkeley Heights -- starting and finishing at Memorial Park. 

Chris Craft of Summit finished in first place with a time of 16:05.2; William Miller of West Point in second with a time of 18:36.4; and Ian St. Clair of Berkeley Heights in third with a time of 18:40.5.

We are thrilled with the turnout, said Kaitlin Jensen, Director of Special Events and Grants at the Summit Area YMCA (SAY). "I think because it's Mother's Day, a lot of folks bring their families out -- especially with weather like this," said Jensen. 

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The proceeds exceeded $55,000 said Janet Russell, vice-president of Development, and will benefit the Livestrong at the YMCA Program. "This is a 12-week cancer recovery program for people to come in and exercise and recapture their health after what they went through."

Livestrong is a free program funded by donated dollars said Russell. "You do not have to be a YMCA member, it's open to the entire community."

Jensen has helped to grow the Mother's Day event by enlarging the arena for kids activities to include a Tot Trot, multiple bouncy houses, face painting, balloon animals, a magic show and crafts. The staging also had a professional presence with a DJ and dance instructor motivating the crowd to get involved. 

"The community is really involved with Starbucks, Yogoccino and the Board of Education here," said Jensen. 

"The town has been very good to work with -- to put on something like this and take down roads, we need the cooperative effort," said Russell. 

The race has returned to downtown Berkeley Heights after an attempt to relocate to Connell Corporate Park last year.

"The course was great, a lot of fun -- I'm glad we're back downtown," said Dr. Donald DeFabio, event chairman. "We grew and we've expanded and had a vision. This is a better place. It has a community feel here. The Y is about the community, it's about youth development and social responsibility."

"It's better to be in the community versus the corporate world. We work very well with the corporate world with the corporate sponsors -- but bringing it back downtown makes sense," said DeFabio. 

Corporate sponsors include Celgene, Overlook Hospital, DeFabio Chiropractic Spine & Sports Rehab to name a few. 

The race being a Mother's Day tradition for many has been the catalyst for families running together. Tara Smith of New Providence ran with her mother, Cathy Cronin and sister in-law, Aggie Cronin. "This was the first run, three years ago, to get me going," said Smith.  She has completed two half marathons and is trying to qualify for the 2015 ING NYC Marathon

Tiffany Escott, executive director of the Berkeley Heights YMCA, has been involved with the race since its inception 13 years ago. "We brought it back to Berkeley Heights for the community feel," said Escott.  "Every single Mother's Day that I have had, I have been involved in the race -- my family knows this is what we will be doing on Mother's Day. It's important."

School leaders and team coaches have motivated their students to get involved and be part of the tradition.  

A group of Woodruff Elementary School students from the Happy Feet Club have been participating for the past five or six years said Escott.  Woodruff Principal Patti Gasparini has been the "biggest cheerleader" for her group of participants.  

The YMCA Summit Seals Coach Laura has motivated her swimmers to participate. Jordan Goldberg of Summit came out with his parents Dean and Katie as well as a sturdy contingency from his Summit Seal team. "We just started running races and this is our first time running this race," said Katie Goldberg.  "Coach Laura is here cheering the kids on." 

Sherry Buchanan has been running this race for the past 10 -12 years. "I used to run with my older kids who are away. Today it's all me. I love this course with the scenic route with the trees," said Buchanan.

The YMCA is a 501(c)3 fitness family oriented organization said DeFabio. "You support the Y, you support the community. The YMCA gave back $1.2 million in free memberships last year with Live Strong and Seven Creators. People that can't afford it can get free or discounted memberships. If someone is looking for a place to train or take care of their kids, why not use the Y," DeFabio said.