A 5K on Saturday at Northern Guilford High School will give runners a chance to provide a bit of relief for childhood hunger and food insecurity.
But if they're not familiar, they'll also be introduced to the Triad chapter of a nationwide program that helps people with special needs be a part of the running and triathlon community.
The Race Against Hunger 5K, which will start with a 1-mile fun run at 8:15 a.m. Saturday followed by the 3.1-mile race 9 a.m., will benefit A Simple Gesture. In addition, riders with Ainsley's Angels of the Triad and their Angel runners will be a part of the 5K field.
In a two-part post, here's more about the Race Against Hunger with co-race director Lori Harrington (she’s teaming with Janice Campagna), then keep reading to learn more about Ainsley's Angels from Ethan Faulkner's mother, Kristen, and from Triad ambassador Lauren Bruce.
About the Race for Hunger 5K
A Simple Gesture, according to its web site, began in California in 2011, founded by Jonathan Trivers. The chapter serving Guilford County is one of 65 nationwide and will be the beneficiary for proceeds from the Race for Hunger 5K.
"This is an existing race that was conceived in 2019 to deal with the hunger issue in the greater Greensboro and Triad area,," Harrington says. "And we realized that not only do we have an issue within our own school, 23 percent-plus of the youth in the Triad and in the greater Greensboro area are affected, both themselves and family. So we this year have partnered with A Simple Gesture as well as the Greensboro Food Coalition to work to gather food. All of the proceeds for the race will go to hunger causes."
The Northern Guilford PTSA puts on the race, with Riding High Harley-Davidson as the event's top sponsor. And riding out front, leading the field on her bicycle, will be Northern Guilford principal Dr. Janiese McKenzie.
"We weren't sure as an organization and as a school, as a lot of people weren't, if we were going to even be able to do this race because of the pandemic," Harrington says. "But we're thrilled to offer a COVID-safe, in-person event. We’re have an after-party at Village Beverage Co. (in Summerfield), family-friendly with music and cornhole and face painting.
"We've got door prizes, so we think it's going to be a pretty special event. It's very family-friendly, because it's contained on the campus of both the high school and the middle school. So you're not worried about roads or cars. We're encouraging people to bring food donations to not only monetarily support but also support in terms of food for A Simple Gesture."
About Ainsley's Angels
You'll see three-wheeled, hot-pink chairs carrying riders, and they're part of Ainsley's Angels' nationwide effort to help people with special needs experience endurance events.
The national organization was founded in 2011 by Kim and Lori Rossiter in honor of daughter Ainsley, who was diagnosed with infantile neuroaxonal dystrophy at age 3. Ainsley died, at age 12, in 2016.
The Triad chapter, of which Greensboro's Lauren Bruce is ambassador, is one of nine in North Carolina, and the Ainsley's Angels presence extends to more than 70 cities and to 33 states.
Ethan Faulkner will be one of the Ainsley’s Angels riders Saturday. Down syndrome is Ethan's primary diagnosis, with autism a secondary diagnosis, says his mother, Kristen Faulkner. Yet the family faced challenges trying to fit in either of those groups, and other medical issues made belonging even more difficult.
"And then came Ainsley's Angels," Faulkner says. "It didn't matter that he has a feeding tube. It doesn't matter that he chews on a towel. It doesn't matter that he might pull your hair right before you run.
"He's included. And he's loved. And, oh ..." she says, her voice breaking, "we belong somewhere."
Bruce, a community resources director for Special Olympics North Carolina, became involved with Ainsley's Angels late in 2017, having encountered their runners at her own races and deciding to learn more about the mission.
"It's been the perfect mixture of working with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the sports arena," Bruce says. "And then personally through something that I love, like the vehicle of running – oh my gosh, I could never ask for anything more. It's perfect."
Ainsley's Angels riders and their Angel runners have been part of the Beat the Heat 5K and Moonlight Madness 5K in Winston-Salem, among others, in a year that began slowly because of the COVID-19 pandemic but has seen more normalcy on the race calendar since the summer.
"To know that something is right is when we have race directors calling us asking if we're coming to a race," Bruce says. "Or before they've even planned the next year's event, they're reaching out to us to say, 'We had such great support. We saw people loving you. Can we have you come out and do a talk?"
Ainsley’s Angels visited Oden Brewing Run Club in Greensboro on Tuesday night and will be out quite a bit more during November. The Race Against Hunger 5K will be the first of three straight weekends, with riders also entered in the Mayberry Marathon, Half Marathon and 5K in Mount Airy on Nov. 13 and in Trivium Racing's Greensboro Half Marathon and 5K on Nov. 20.
Besides riders, the organization welcomes runners who want to help.
"Anyone can join our family," Bruce says. "You don't even have to be a runner. You don't have to be a super-fast runner. We will use any skill, any talent, from photographer to somebody who wants to fundraise for us since we're a non-profit to the people who want to run.
"And what we do for first-time runners is we do pair them with someone who has run with us for a couple of races. So they're getting the wisdom and the experience, and they're not just out there on their own."
Learn more at AinsleysAngels.org, or email Bruce at email@example.com.
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