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Carrying a torch for seniors

Olympic gold medalist helps raise spirits and funds at 5K run

Posted: October 29, 2008 3:34 p.m.
Updated: December 31, 2008 5:00 a.m.

More than 400 runners participated in the annual Kiwanis Club of Santa Clarita's 17th annual Six Flags Magic Mountain 5K Run on Oct. 5.

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Some people really know how to carry a torch. Included in that glowing group is Olympic gold medalist/world-renowned sprinter, Allyson Felix, who along with 412 race entrants, helped the brighten lives of Santa Clarita Valley seniors through the Kiwanis Club of Santa Clarita’s 17th annual Six Flags Magic Mountain 5K Run.

Among those claiming victory at the Oct. 5 race were its two overall winners: Sergio Lares (16:29 minutes) and Shannon Murakami (19:40 minutes). 

Organized by the Kiwanis Club of Santa Clarita and the SCV Senior Center, the 5K benefits the Center’s Home-Delivered Meals Program and other Kiwanis charities. More than 800 senior citizens receive the home-delivered meals — men and women who can no longer take care of their own nutritional needs.

Fresh off her Beijing wins, Felix assisted event emcee, Saugus High School Principal Bill Bolde, speaking to runners before the race, and then handing out medals at the end. Clearly moved by the community event, the Canyon Country super-athlete encouraged the runners and thanked them for helping “seniors in our own hometown.”

“I have experienced the blessing of seniors in my own life, my grandfather is 99, and I have two grandmothers who are 89,” Felix said. “They have been a tremendous blessing in my own life.”

The ability to promote a senior-supporting community event is a joy, Bolde said.

“I have committed my life to advancing opportunities for our youth through my position as a teacher and now an administrator, but equally important is the work we all can do to care for the older members of our society,” the principal said. “It was heartwarming to see the young citizens of Santa Clarita coming together to provide their support.”

From age 5 to AARP status, the runners varied in age and ability, with the majority of participants of high school age. All wore grins and clamored to be near Felix, who gave generously of her time, autographs, and photo ops.

Genuine acts
Thankful for the strong turnout, Bolde said he was especially happy so many SCV students signed up for the charitable run.

“I’m obviously very proud of the Saugus High students who gave of their time, particularly our State Champion Cross Country team, but I know there were students from every school in our community represented at the event,” Bolde said. “It’s just refreshing to know that when you look at students and see that God has blessed them with an extraordinary ability to run fast and use their bodies to produce superhuman accomplishments, that it’s truly the size of their heart and the spirit of their giving that matters most.”

Bolde lauded Felix for her humanitarianism and values.

“Her involvement was appreciated by all the participants,” he said. “She’s a prime example of a person who has accomplished tremendous feats on a world-wide stage, including gold and silver medals, world championships, numerous records, etc., yet recognizes her greatest achievements in life are found in how she affects the greater society through genuine acts of kindness and service to others. What a gift she is to our community.”

Felix, who won a gold medal in Beijing in the 1,600-meter relay and a silver in the 200 meter, was also the 200-meter silver medalist in the 2004 Summer Olympic Games, and is the current (and two-time) world champion in the 200-meter. A University of Southern California graduate and newly named ambassador for the Children’s Miracle Network (an international nonprofit that raises funds for 170 children’s hospitals), she now looks forward to the 2012 Olympics in London.

“We were so fortunate to have Allyson Felix join us,” said Brad Berens, executive director of the SCV Senior Center and SCV Committee on Aging Corp. “I think all 400-plus people wanted their picture with her, and her smile and graciousness never tired. Her natural athletic prowess is exceeded only by her good-humored graciousness, and together with Bill Bolde, they made the perfect masters of ceremonies.”
The 5K raised nearly $8,000 for the SCV Senior Center’s Home-Delivered Meals Program.

Like constantly running in a 5K, keeping up with the financial needs of the home-delivered meals program is a continual race against time, Berens said.

“We have funding for 62,000 meals for home-delivered meals but we project that if the needs remain fairly constant over the next nine months, we’ll need to deliver 68,184 meals,” he said. “Currently we will run out of contract funding about a month and a half before the end of the fiscal year. We need an additional $37,000 from fundraising to fill the base needs for that last six weeks to avoid a waiting list or incur that deficit.”

Student entrants
Berens said home-delivered meal recipients are currently donating only 50 percent of the suggested donation for each meal because of economic hardships and low fixed incomes. 

Founded in 1915, Kiwanis International is a global organization of volunteers dedicated to “changing the world one child and one community at a time.” Founded in 1927, it is the oldest service club in the SCV. A vigilant supporter of the Senior Center, the charitable group strives to assist local seniors.

“Kiwanis addresses many Senior Center needs,” said SCV Committee on Aging board member Bob Endress. “Some $500,000 or more has been raised through the years to help the Center.”

Those funds have helped in a variety of ways, including purchasing the center’s Supportive Services building, supporting home-delivered meals, and more, Endress said.

Berens praised everyone involved with the 5K, particularly runners and sponsors who made it all possible. Berens, whose Saugus High daughter Aja also ran in the 5K, gave special thanks to all the student entrants.

“This was an excellent opportunity for our young people to learn about stewardship and embracing those less fortunate. Helping in this manner instills school pride while supporting the frail and elderly of our community,” he said.

Next up
Next up to benefit the Senior Center is the annual Celebrity Waiter Dinner to be held Feb. 21. Tickets, sponsorships, donations and volunteering opportunities are now available, said Berens.

“Benefiting the Senior Center’s Adult Day Care Respite Center, the “InterGALActic Affair, promises to be an ‘out of this world’ evening of fun,” he said. “We hope the community will support the Celebrity Waiter Dinner and help us in our efforts to provide excellent licensed social day care while affording caregivers some desperately needed time for themselves. This is a quality of life necessity on both sides of the care-giving equation.”

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