by Abby Beauregard, Raleigh Norris, Lacee Getter

Despite the cold, runners and spectators alike turned out on Saturday for the school’s first Be A Fan 5K race.

“It’s supporting a great cause Ms. Ford, Ms. Goodall, their entire program. They do wonderful things for their kids and they provide a great service for the school. The kids they have are wonderful and bring a lot of joy to a lot of people,” Assistant Principal Christian English said.

The goal of the race was to raise money for the school’s Special Education program, which has seen a reduced budget the past few years.

“The budget got cut, so the race is to make up for it. They used to go on field trips to the circus when they learned about animals and other things like that, so the aim is to be able to do things like that again,” sophomore Robert Sawyer said.

The event all started with Special Education teacher Essie Ford, who wanted to raise enough money to thank volunteers with t-shirts and improve the MATP games put on at Dutch Fork for those students who cannot participate in the state’s Special Olympics.

“It started many years ago when we had our in-house Special Olympics. I had always wanted those who helped to have t-shirts, but I was always low on money and could not get everyone a t-shirt for all the volunteers. Fran O’Toole, who worked in our classroom, said ‘I have a friend who does 5k’s, Kimberly Taylor, and why don’t we do a 5k?’ and we can get things for our classroom and t-shirts for volunteers,” Ford said.

From there the idea was born. However, it takes an army to plan an event like this, and even more volunteers to see it properly executed. Luckily, coordinators had no trouble finding people to help.

“Dutch Fork High School, Dutch Fork Middle School and Lexington Richland Five have so many wonderful students, teachers, coaches and administration that really came together and we did this together,” Race Director Kimberly Green said.

The planning began back in August, when Green met with those from the District in hopes of seeing the idea come to life.

“We would meet and mapped out a course and got it certified. I applied for Intel Matching Grant to allow us to get the course certified. So after we got the grant we just went to O’Leary’s Orthodontics and other local businesses, and they were more than willing to help us put this event on. We’ve raised about six thousand dollars,” Green said. “Some of the money will go to t-shirts and things like that but a sizeable chunk will be left over for the Special Needs program.”

Despite the race’s newness and early start time, the event still managed a sizeable crowd.

“We had over 250 people and that’s just fantastic for the first time and we’re hoping to get even more next year. It had turned out great,” Ford said.

All of the preparation paid off and the general consensus was the the event exceeded expectations.

“A lot went into today, a lot of work, a lot of people, but it was like a community working together to make this turnout. Look at it, its beautiful,” Ford said.

“I’m just glad everyone came out. I just want to thank everyone that came. It’s just wonderful to see everyone, the whole school, the administrators and the students.

They all came out and supported [us],” Ford said. “That’s what we need and that’s what I like, just seeing us working together and supporting one another.”