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Good Shepherd prepares for Halloween 'fun run'

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

For the second year in a row, supporters of the Good Shepherd Clinic will sport Halloween costumes while running, jogging, and walking, to raise money for the county's only free, primary care clinic for the uninsured.

The annual Good Shepherd Clinic 5K Fun Run & Walk will take place on Saturday, Oct. 30, starting at 9 a.m., at Clayton County International Park, located at 2300 Ga. Highway 138, in Jonesboro.

The noncompetitive race, which will span the length of International Park, will raise money for the clinic, while encouraging residents to pursue more active lifestyles.

Dr. Tulasi Vanapalli, a private practice doctor in Morrow, volunteers at the Good Shepherd Clinic twice a week. She said she and her husband, a retired surgeon, came up with the 'fun run' fund-raiser idea last year, after noticing that many of the patients coming to the clinic suffer from diabetes and hypertension.

"I would say 60 percent of them are diabetic, hypertensive, or both," said Vanapalli. "This is one way of getting the people to recognize walking can be healthy."

Vanapalli said the run, which takes place at Halloween time, is also a way to raise the profile of the clinic. She said that last year, 115 people participated in the race, despite rains that caused flooding in parts of metro Atlanta.

"My aim is to get more people and physicians involved," Vanapalli said.

Good Shepherd Clinic Board of Directors Chairman L.C. Thomas said that the clinic's long-running Tomato Sandwich Party fund-raiser is well known by local residents. However, he said the Halloween fun run provided the clinic with a way to "reach out to supporters beyond the borders of our county."

"A lot of people participated [last year], even though it rained," Thomas said. "A lot of people were wet, but because it was a good cause, it didn't bother them at all. The larger the base of supporters we have, the better off we are."

Mike Mead, race coordinator and a member of the clinic's board of directors, said that while costumes are not mandatory, they are highly encouraged. He said the top 10 finishers in the run/walk will receive a commemorative plaque.

"It's really about getting out and doing something to get healthy," Mead said. "A lot of patients at the clinic have diabetes or high blood pressure ... One of the ways of eliminating that is exercise. This is one of the cheapest and [most] inexpensive ways to exercise."

Race-day registration will take place at the International Park Nassau Building on Oct. 30, from 7:30 a.m., to 8:45 a.m. Participants who register before Oct. 26 will be able to do so at a reduced price: $15 for individuals (includes commemorative shirt); $10 for individuals not receiving a shirt; and $35 for families with three-to-six members (includes a shirt for each family member).

Prices after Oct. 26, or on the day of the race, will be $20 for individuals receiving a shirt, $12 for individuals not receiving a shirt, and $55 for families, each receiving a shirt.

Registration forms are available at www.godshep.org. For more information, call (770) 968-1310.