WESTFIELD, NJ — Competitors took to the streets Sunday for a 5K race to benefit programming for people with special needs at the Westfield Area YMCA.

Jon Johnnides of Westfield crossed the finish line bare-chested and covered in sweat. Johnnides noted an increase in people running on local streets in the weeks leading up to the race.

“As I’ve been around Westfield, I’ve seen a lot more people than usual out running or jogging, at night, early in the morning and throughout the day,” said Johnnides, 37. “One of the greatest things about this race is it catalyzed the community of Westfield to get into a little better shape.”

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About 500 people registered to participate in the 5K, said race director Greg Hatzisavvas, Westfield Area YMCA senior director member wellness and engagement. Around 130 children ages 8 and younger competed in the Kids Run, he said. And hundreds more could be seen cheering on the runners from the sidelines.

Darielle Walsh was one of about 200 volunteers Sunday morning.

“It’s a wonderful community event for families,” said Walsh, a longtime volunteer with the YMCA and a member of its board, as she handed out shirts and race bibs. “It’s really great to see so many kids running.”


Money raised by the event will go toward programs at the YMCA for people with special needs. Hatzisavvas said this year much of it will go to provide “shadows” for children with special needs so that they can participate in the YMCA’s summer camp.

Dozens of area businesses provided sponsorship support, including Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Westfield West, Atlantic Health Systems, Kings, Marano & Sons Auto Sales Inc., Spencer Savings Bank, The Grinis Family, the Westfield Area Y Men’s Club and TAPinto Westfield, TAPinto Cranford and TAPinto Mountainside. Click here for the full list of sponsors.

“Things are going great. The weather is awesome,” said Hatzisavvas as the Kids Run took off. “The community — everyone is out supporting. We’re thrilled.”

Hand cyclists kicked off the race followed by runners of all ages, including Mike Walters, who raced with two fellow runners from “Geezers,” a running club comprised mostly of older men he trains with.

“It was a fun race on a beautiful course,” said Walters, 62, who had the name of the running club emblazoned on his jersey along with a Superman-style G. “It was a little bit warm for the middle of September, but it was a whole lot of fun. The Y did a great job.”

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