By Valerie Baldowski
Finishing near the top in the annual Geranium Fun Run was the last thing on David Curry's mind when he, his son, and niece, entered the contest.
The Henry County Tax Commissioner said he chose to take part in the event to give his children new experiences, and to encourage them to become actively involved in the community.
"I do it because it's an opportunity to bring my kids out and introduce them to people they normally wouldn't meet," he said.
"My son, Jacob, 12, and niece, Katelyn Echols, 14, ran the 5K (3.1 mile) race with me," Curry said. "They don't run at the same pace. They were behind me a little bit, but they took first place in their age brackets, and they were excited."
The race, organized by Speedway Children's Charities, provided an opportunity for runners to support the cause of children with special needs, said Cindy Carter, director of the Sunshine League. "They included a special-needs division, and this was the first time we had been included," said Carter. "This was huge. Inclusion is a big thing for the children and their families."
Curry and his family were among more than 200 participants who braved threatening weather, to participate in the event, recently.
"It was dreary, rainy and overcast, but for us, it was a huge bright spot," said Carter. "It's never about the numbers. It's about touching the ones who are there."
Carter, and others believe the event generated an overall positive effect on both the participants and the children. Gina Moore, the timekeeper for the race, said the event was more about positive reinforcement, than measuring how fast each runner ran the course at the JCPenney store in McDonough.
"The ones who won, got medals and geraniums. I don't even know who won," beamed Moore. "The most rewarding and fulfilling moment was when the gal in the wheelchair came over the finish line. That really was a cool moment." The fun run marked the first time in 16 years a wheelchair participant had competed in a race, Moore added.
"What is priceless, is the support from the community," said Carter. "They made our kids VIPs. It was awesome."
Instead of leaving immediately, she said the runners who finished the course first waited to provide encouragement to the special-needs participants. "There were runners who stayed and lined the finish line, cheering for them," said Carter.
The race began at 7:30 a.m., and was followed by a special 50-yard "Sunshine League" dash at 8:30 a.m. The registration fees for the special-needs runners were waived, she said, and each one received free T-shirts.
Other county and city officials on hand for the event, included: Henry County Commission Chairman Elizabeth "B. J." Mathis, McDonough Mayor Billy Copeland and McDonough Police Chief Preston Dorsey.