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Nov 4, 2009 1:26 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Proceeds from Center Moriches race will aid those in Darfur, Sudan

Nov 4, 2009 1:26 PM

Setting off from Neville Park on Sunday, runners will sprint, sweat and wheeze their way through Center Moriches to raise money for people suffering more than 6,000 miles away in Darfur, Sudan.

Participants in a charity race that will be held on the morning of November 8 will choose to slog either 5 or 10 kilometers for the African region, which is beset by years of ethnic violence and starvation. Among the registered runners are members of a group called Ball for Lives, a nonprofit in New Jersey, who plan to dribble basketballs for the whole 10-kilometer trek.

The run will be the inaugural event of a nonprofit called Athletes Changing Tomorrow, the brainchild of three Southampton residents with a history of racing for charity.

The idea started when Amanda Wellman, a social worker from Speonk, approached her friend and neighbor Jessica Lacetera, a software analyst, two years ago after watching the documentary “The Devil Came on Horseback” that focused on the genocide that has devastated Darfur since 2003. Both of them have participated in benefit races throughout the years—Ms. Wellman has ran about 25 of them, she said. She also helped organize the Peg Larkin Memorial Run at Remsenburg/Speonk Elementary School for the past two years, a race to fund scholarships for the school district.

“We’ve both done different events ourselves,” Ms. Wellman said, “so that was our draw to using this avenue to try to give back.”

The third member of their board is Bob Beattie of Hampton Bays, who manages Gubbins Running Ahead, a running store with locations in Southampton and East Hampton. Mr. Beattie has been helping organize running events for 20 years, he said, and will be timing the race on Sunday.

The trio incorporated the nonprofit in February, and serious planning for the race began about two months ago, they said.

Athletes Changing Tomorrow will donate its proceeds to a Los Angeles-based humanitarian nonprofit called Relief International. The organization has a number of programs in Darfur, which provide immunizations, basic health care, food, small business help and agricultural assistance to the population there. The nonprofit reaches about a half million families in Darfur, according to Brenna Taylor-Ford, a philanthropy associate with the group.

“The humanitarian conditions ... for the people living over there are horrendous,” Ms. Lacetera said.

Ms. Wellman said they chose Relief International because, of all the organizations they looked at, it gave the largest share of proceeds to directly aid the benefactors in Darfur, and seemed like it had the most access to the region.

On the day of the race, Athletes Changing Tomorrow will try to raise additional funds with raffles and a silent auction. Up for grabs will be tickets to Atlantis Marine World in Riverhead and free classes at The Fitness Center in Eastport, among other prizes.

Two representatives from Ball for Lives will be driving from northern New Jersey to tackle the 10K. They are participating in a Ball for Lives program called “Dribble the World,” which raises funds for humanitarian causes through donors who sponsor its members to dribble basketballs through races and even marathons. Its founder, Dan Occhiogrosso, dribbled a basketball during the 2007 New York City Marathon. In addition to benefiting Athletes Changing Tomorrow, Dribble the World will be raising funds, though its sponsors, for an organization called Malaria No More.

Ashley Ten Kate is one of the Dribble the World members who will run on Sunday. It will be her third time dribbling a basketball in a race; Her last one was a half-marathon in New York City in August.

“We just want to bring forward why we care about people and what we can do to help them,” she said.

Participants can opt into either a 5-kilometer run for $20 or a 10-kilometer run for $25 if they register in advance at the website athleteschangingtomorrow.org. Runners who register on race day will have to tack on $5, and students younger than 17 can pay $15 for either distance.

As of Tuesday, 91 runners had pre-registered, and Ms. Wellman expects that number to double or triple on the day of the race.

The runners will begin at Neville Park on Canal Street in Center Moriches, and the route will take them down Main Street, Ocean Avenue, Sedgemore Road and Union Avenue. Runners in the 10-kilometer race will complete the loop twice. Race day check-in will be between 7:15 and 8:45 a.m., and the race will begin at 9 a.m. An award ceremony will be held at 10:15 a.m.

In addition to registration fees, the nonprofit is receiving money from sponsors, including some local families and businesses like North Fork Orthodontics in Riverhead, Kneski & Sons, a paving company in Westhampton, and J.P. Spano & Co., a construction company in Quiogue.

The organizers cannot say how much money they have brought in so far, or even how much they hope to raise. Ms. Wellman said that they are not sure what to expect because it is the nonprofit’s first event. But they’re confident.

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Thank you for a very successful event.
More information and links to results:
By Bob Beattie (4), Hampton Bays on Jan 4, 10 4:39 PM