By Joel Hall
Known throughout the Southern Crescent for its annual Tomato Sandwich Party, the Good Shepherd Clinic in Morrow is taking a new approach to raising funds. On Oct. 31, the clinic will host its first charity run/walk.
Participants will be able to dress in their most-impressive Halloween costumes. The event will take place Saturday, from 9 to 11 a.m., at Clayton County International Park in Jonesboro. Registration will begin at 7:30 a.m., at the park's Nassau Building. Participants also will be given free health screenings for high blood pressure, diabetes, and other conditions.
Dr. Raju Vanapalli, the event's organizer, has worked as a volunteer at the Good Shepherd Clinic since it opened nine years ago. He said the clinic provides free medical care to Clayton County residents who are without health insurance, and the fund-raiser serves as another way to keep the clinic going.
"Because of the economy, more people are utilizing the charity clinic," Vanapalli said. "There is a need for extra funds. Rather than just asking people for money ... this is something different. If there is enough support, we can do the Tomato Sandwich Party in the spring, and the run/walk in the fall."
The path of the course will span the grounds of International Park. Coordinating the course is Mike Mead, head cross country track coach at Clayton State University.
For seven years, Mead, who serves on the Good Shepherd Clinic's board of directors, has coordinated the "Freedom Run," a 5K run through Morrow and Lake City, on the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday. Prizes will be given to the top finishers in the run, he said, as well as to groups and individual participants with the best costumes.
"I think it's kind of clever," Mead said. "With this falling on Halloween, it just seemed very natural [to allow costumes]. It gives them another chance to show off their costumes throughout the day.
"There are a lot of people out there who aren't even aware that the clinic exists for them," Mead said. "A lot of people are conditioned to think, if you don't have insurance, you are out of luck, but this provides hope for some people."
L.C. Thomas, chairman of the clinic's board of directors, said the event serves as a way to take the clinic's mission outside of it's four walls. "I think it shows that we are interested in good health, even away from the clinic," Thomas said. "It's doing things to promote good health. This will help them have better health, and, hopefully, it will decrease their dependence on medication."
Registration fees range from $10 to $55, depending on the size of the participating party. Pre-registration is available. For more information, call (770) 968-7421, or (678) 466-4679, or visit www.godshep.org.