BRISTOL — It was a frightening but festive atmosphere in Bristol early Saturday morning as ghouls, goblins and even a few fairies gathered at Bonneyville Mill County Park for the Frightening 5K and Haunted Hilly Half Marathon fundraising event benefiting the Elkhart County Down Syndrome Support Group.
Held in the spirit of the upcoming Halloween holiday, Saturday’s event encouraged participants to dress up in their favorite Halloween costumes, and even featured a special prize for the best male and female costumes.
According to Julie Senger, wife of the group’s president, Jack Senger, Saturday’s event was the second time the fundraiser — which serve’s as the group’s main fundraising event of the year — has been held at Bonneyville Mill.
“LoveWay actually used to do it, but they found that it was too difficult to have two fundraisers in October, so they ended up donating the fundraiser to our group,” Senger said. “My youngest daughter, Jenna, has Down syndrome, so that’s why we’re a part of the support group. I wanted to volunteer for this, so I helped train the volunteer coordinator this year, I did the decorations... just a lot of stuff like that.”
And Senger wasn’t the only one to reflect a giving spirit Saturday, as more than 340 runners braved the early morning darkness and crisp October air to turn out for the annual fundraising event, raising just upward of $10,000 for the group.
Registration was $10 for the Monster Mile, $40 for the 5k and $55 for the half-marathon. Fees collected during the event went to post-race soup, cocoa, cookies and fruit, long sleeve technical shirts with a vampire logo, chip timing by THTiming, finisher awards, AG trophies and protection from the event’s extra special guest, the Headless Horseman.
All additional race proceeds will go toward the purchase of educational tools, funding group events, hiring specialists and funding programs and activities such as therapeutic riding lessons for the group’s members.
“Our goal as the Elkhart County Down Syndrome Support Group is to promote awareness, acceptance and understanding, and just letting people know that we, that our kids, are just like everybody else,” Senger said. “We have a Christmas party, we have a picnic, we have all sorts of different activities each year to try and get the message out. We’re definitely not a Debbie Downer group. We’re all about the positive.”
And it was just that contagious, positive attitude that help to attract event participants such as Elkhart’s Amie Chavarria, who chose to give up her morning Saturday to participate in the event’s Frightening 5k run.
“I do a lot of races, and this was actually the first race I ever did when I started racing a year ago,” Chavarria said of the event. “I heard about it from a coworker of mine last year, and decided to give it a try. It’s such a great cause, and I love the turnout, the people... it’s just a great event. I’d recommend it to anyone.”
For more information on the Elkhart County Down Syndrome Support Group, visit the group’s website at www.ecdssg.org.
Follow government reporter John Kline @jkline_TGN