By McKibben Jackinsky
For the Homer News
In a fitting burst of color, on Saturday a throng of eager runners and walkers crossed the starting line of Homer’s first Summer Color Burst 5K Community Run/Walk. Most of them wearing white T-shirts made for the event, the laughing participants were immediately showered with powdered paint and braced for more bursts at one-kilometer intervals along the route from Paul Banks to West Homer elementary schools.
The event was a fundraiser for five area elementary schools: McNeil Canyon, Fireweed Academy, Chapman, Paul Banks and West Homer, as well as the Girls On the Run program.
“We’re all having fundraisers every year for these schools and organization. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s hard to support, especially for families with kids in two or three schools and with friends in another school. It stretches you thin,” said organizer Shay Lowney, who saw the run as an event that could bring together parents, students and the community in one event benefiting multiple schools.
At the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year, Lowney began sharing her idea with school administrators and parents.
“Everyone liked the idea and wanted to be part of it,” she said. “My hope was that it would be a big event that the community could get behind.”
The interest exceeded what Lowney and her team of organizers had imagined. On Friday, more than 300 participants had registered. By Saturday’s 11 a.m. start time, 600 bibs had been distributed and volunteers were handwriting additional bids.
Popular around the world, color runs are five-kilometer events owned and operated by The Color Run LLC, a for-profit company.
“We knew for our fundraising efforts we couldn’t afford to use the name or we would have had to charge more,” said Lowney. Instead, the organizers chose “Summer Color Burst 5K,” a fitting description for the well-attended event that left runners powdered with color that could be washed off. Registration was $20 for entrants age 13 and older, $15 for ages 5-12, free for those younger than 5, and $75 per family.
Proceeds will be divided among the schools and Girls on the Run according to the level of planning and volunteer participation. Runners and walkers wanting to preserve the memory could set the colors on the shirts after the race by soaking them in vinegar.
Coming up with inspiring run-related ideas isn’t new to Lowney. In 2016 she coordinated an effort to honor her uncle Ralph Broshes’s 40th year in the Spit Run in spite of Broshes having back surgery in 2015. Family and friends joined the effort, running in green “Team Ralph” T-shirts.
Taking on such an effort isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, however, as evidenced by a conversation between two mothers and overheard at the end of Saturday’s Color Burst.
“I wouldn’t want to organize something like this,” one said to the other as they waited for their youngsters to complete the 5K course.
“I have to say I totally understand, but I can’t wait to do it again next year,” Lowney said with a laugh, recognizing that it wasn’t a one-person effort.
Her 9-person crew of helpers included Andi Manuel, Susan Darr, Lacy Epperson, Laura Passic, Lora Harroff, Amber Niebur, Todd Hindman, Lindsey Collins and Kathy Vogl. Add to that numerous event-day volunteers, including members of the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment Homer. Then there was the lengthy list of local businesses that sponsored the event and were recognized on the back of the T-shirts.
“It was a huge success all around and wouldn’t have happened without the number of incredible volunteers and sponsors,” said Lowney. “And we’d like to thank the support of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, specifically Paul Banks, Fireweed Academy and West Homer Elementary for the use of their facilities on race day.”