Runners found their stride June 3 while participating in the Mokena Community Park District’s 7th annual Summertime Strike 5K and Kids Dash.
This year’s race benefitted the Disabled Patriot Fund, an Orland Park-based organization supporting the needs of military veterans who fought in the War on Terrorism.
“It’s just a way to let people know that we appreciate [veterans,] and it’s just a good thing to get the community together,” said Rebecca Phetteplace, recreation supervisor of special events and trips for Mokena Community Park District.
Phetteplace said people could expect a lot of fun at the race this year.
Highlights from the Summertime Stride consisted of a post-race awards ceremony, pre-race warm-ups, zumba demonstration for spectators and raffle drawings.
“It’s close to home, it’s very well-organized, very friendly, loving and a fundraiser for a good cause,” Paul Ciesiun, of Frankfort, said as he was preparing to hit the racecourse with his wife.
Attending the race was not a first for Ciesiuns.
“[In] 2013, we both did it—my and wife and I,” Paul said.
He said it is important for people to show continued support for veterans in the community.
“There’s room for improvement,” he said. “I served from ’76 to ’80 in the army as an electrician. For those that have been wounded—whether psychologically or physically—I think [they] need the help…Downtown Chicago and around the country, you see people that are veterans that [are experiencing] tough times, unable to cope, and get themselves up. There is a lot being done. You can’t help everybody, because it does take [focus]. I think if you have the right focus, you can find your way, but some don’t have that focus.”
Paul added that it is wonderful to see the Park District doing its part to help support the cause locally.
The Summertime Stride typically sees between 250 and 300 participants. This time around, 195 people pre-registered for the race, and the Park District allowed for additional registrations the day of the event.
“When I look at the registrants from the past years, it’s a lot of the same people,” Phetteplace said. “It’s bringing back people that keep coming and enjoying it.”
“You’ll see more younger kids joining each year to the actual 5K, not even just the kids dash,” Phetteplace said. “We had a 7-year-old doing the 5K this year. They could be walking, but you’ll see that the smaller age groups are growing within the 5K.”
Phetteplace credits the event’s appeal to the Park District’s effort to support local charities.
“It’s not something where they’re never going to see the money in their community,” she said. “I think that that helps a lot.”
Pam Shanahan, of Mokena, said she decided to drop in because the race is close by and it is important to stay active.
This year was Shanahan’s first time participating in the Summertime Stride.
Shanahan said she recognized the value placed in supporting the Disabled Patriot Fund by participating in this year’s race, and said it is clear that not enough is done to help veterans.
“Events like this can raise awareness, which is always good,” she said.
Shanahan added that the race does a nice job of bringing the community together.
“I like that they have kids dash, so it kind of incorporates the kids a little bit more than some of the other 5Ks in the area,” she said.
Leading up to the race’s start time at 8:30 a.m., participants enjoyed the singing of the “Star Spangled Banner” and paused for a moment of silence to honor veterans for their service.
Jake Christiansen, of Oak Lawn, reached the finish line as the first person to complete the 5K this year.
“This course is nice,” he said. “There’s a couple hills, to keep it honest. But otherwise, it’s mostly flat, so it’s a good course.”
Running the 5K was not a first for Christiansen.
“It’s a good race, and the fact that it supports a good cause is a nice bonus,” Christiansen said.
Medals were awarded to the Top 3 male and female participants in each age group.