Rise & Shine Race Raises Funds, Awareness for Mississippians with Disabilities
To many people, Hattiesburg Clinic’s annual Rise & Shine Half-Marathon & 5K
is known as a fundraiser for The Arc of Southeast Mississippi. For The Arc, the event is also a source of inspiration and awareness.
The clinic’s first half-marathon and 5K kicked off in April 2012 as an effort to raise money for The Arc, a United Way nonprofit organization that provides community based services to Mississippi residents with intellectual and developmental challenges and their families.
The inaugural event showed promise, as it attracted nearly 300 race participants and raised approximately $6,000 for The Arc. The next year saw an additional 100 people take part in the race and more than $15,000 raised for The Arc. The fundraising success inspired The Arc to develop a full-time adult program where individuals would learn life skills and become involved in recreational and social activities. They named it the Rise & Shine Program.
“The Arc is dependent on fundraising, grants, programming fees and contributions to be able to provide the level of programming made available to individuals with disabilities. We have the Rise & Shine Program that has offered a wholesome new life to adults with disabilities,” said Cindy Pennington, executive director at The Arc. “Although there are programming fees, The Arc still incurs a significant deficit. If the organization tried to close this gap by raising program fees, many could not attend. Therefore, the Rise & Shine Half-Marathon & 5K generates a significant amount of funding that has allowed us to afford our first full-time program.”
To date, the race has raised about $75,000 total over the past five years, with the largest amount of $29,000 collected in 2016.
Pennington said although the financial support alone stresses the importance of the race, it really goes far beyond the dollar.
“The race is an opportunity for us to allow some of our participants [from The Arc] to be able to finish a half-marathon or a 5K as a rider in the newly donated race wheelchairs. Imagine how the participants and their parents feel when they cross the finish line,” she said.
Pennington also pointed out the awareness it provides for their organization and members.
“The race is an opportunity for The Arc to be showcased as a vital part of our community. Hopefully, we can reach families who are in need of our services, as well as create community awareness of individuals with disabilities,” she said.
According to Pennington, The Arc’s members, parents and staff recognize that the race is a huge event for the community and they are grateful to be a part of it.
“The Arc participants are impacted because they are simply included
,” she said. “The clinic depends on them to make the pottery for the winner prizes. In addition, the participants design the race T-shirts by providing the artwork design. They are asked to be on site to personally hand out the pottery items to all racers.”
Ashlynn Hust, a caregiver at The Arc, agreed that the race brings awareness for their organization and advocates for individuals with disabilities.
“More people are aware of our organization, our mission and the difference we are trying to make. This race has made a huge impact on our organization,” Hust said.
Cassidy Harrington, of Sumrall, has been a member of The Arc for two years. She participates in the Rise & Shine Program, which allows her to go bowling, make crafts, watch movies and play games.
She said the race helps the Rise & Shine Program to “keep going.”
“It’s great that they are doing this for us,” said Harrington. She added that her favorite part of the event is giving out medals to the winners.
“Thank you. We couldn’t do it without your support,” Harrington said to those who participate in the race.
Mary Thompson is a Hattiesburg resident who has been a member of The Arc for five years. She said she loves the Rise & Shine Program and that it allows her to participate in activities like coloring, Bingo and making crafts.
When asked what she would like to say to race participants whose registration fees go to support the Rise & Shine Program, she said, “Thank you. It’s nice of them to do it for me.”
The 6th Annual Rise & Shine Half-Marathon & 5K will be held Saturday, April 1, 2017, at Hattiesburg Clinic’s main campus, 415 S. 28th
Ave. in Hattiesburg, Miss. Race activities will begin with the half-marathon at 7 a.m. and the 5K at 7:30 a.m. Live entertainment and refreshments will be provided throughout the morning.
To register, click here
. For more information, call 601-268-5606.