By: Deanna Rebro | Category: In Our Communities | Issue: March 2012
Athletes of Special Olympics Oklahoma participate in the fun on St. Patrick’s Day.
On Saturday, March 17, more than 2,600 runners will race for some other very special athletes. The 30th annual St. Patrick’s Day 5K Run on Brookside benefits Special Olympics Oklahoma and the Tulsa Running Club.
Derek Cain, Special Olympics Oklahoma’s vice president of marketing and development, says serious and casual runners from a nine-state area view this tradition as a kickoff for the spring racing season. “Some people who are originally from Tulsa come back each year to have fun, meet with family and friends, and help athletes with disabilities.”
The St. Patrick’s Day event features two certified races. The 1 Mile Fun Run draws various groups who don’t really care whether they are first or last across the finish line. “You don’t need to be a serious runner for this,” adds Derek. On the other hand, participants in the 5K feature race can get very serious as they compete for cash and prizes. Male and female winners will be named in numerous age and weight classes.
One of the highlights of the morning’s events is the three block Special Olympics athletes' race. Every one of them is a champion as he or she crosses the finish line amid thundering cheers and applause. “These people put their hearts and souls into the race. It’s amazing to see how some of them are challenged, and yet they have somehow learned to overcome,” says Derek.
According to Derek, who has served as race director since 2005, the number of runners and spectators has significantly increased each year. Special Olympics Oklahoma has been a part of the St. Patrick’s Day race since 2004, when 898 runners raised $4,000. Last year, over 2,600 runners raised more than $44,000. All money raised benefits Oklahoma athletes, with 85 percent of the funds going to Special Olympics and 15 percent going to the Tulsa Running Club.
Some of the strongest participation comes from schools throughout the Green Country area. Young runners who register through their schools compete for as much as $500. With recent publicity shedding a less than favorable light on physical fitness in Oklahoma schools, Derek proudly notes that Special Olympics Oklahoma has more school-age kids involved than many other states in the worldwide program.
Starting point for the race is at 43rd and Peoria, near RunnersWorld, this year’s presenting sponsor. The entry fee is $25 per person. School registration is $10. Each runner will receive a T-shirt and goody bag. An awards ceremony will immediately follow the race.
A free-of-charge Kids Zone will offer face painting and a Jupiter Jump, as well as the new Game On party truck. The 32-foot trailer features kid-friendly gaming machines and video attractions to accommodate as many as 20 kids.
Special Olympics Oklahoma provides a year-round program of sports training and athletic competition for 9,500 athletes in 16 Olympic-style sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Participants gain physical, social and psychological development and greater self-confidence that they take with them in their daily lives at home, in the classroom, on the job and in the community. For more information on the program and the St. Patrick’s Day 5K Run, call Derek Cain at (918) 481-1234.
Deanna Rebro has worked in the publishing industry 30+ years, including eight years writing for Value News. She has also worked in real estate for the past six years. Deanna graduated from Kent State University in Kent, Ohio with a B.A. in Journalism. Outside of work, she serves as Vice President on the Board of Directors for Pet Adoption League. “Every story I write is a learning experience,” she said.