More than 300 runners already have signed up for a Saturday morning event that begins at a local trail and will lead to Christmas toys reaching children in need.
Based on pre-registration figures, record participation is shaping up for the Fourth-Annual Rosy Cheeks 5K, scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Saturday. On the heels of the 5K, or 3.1-mile, run, the Kids Jingle Bell Half-Mile Jog starts at 9:45 a.m.
Organizers believe the run is becoming more popular each year partly due to the fact no monetary sum is required to enter the race, which is the case with most such events. Something special is given instead.
“The entry fee is a toy,” said Lt. Kelly Hiatt of the Mount Airy Police Department, a sponsor of the event along with the city parks and recreation department and the Mount Airy Road Runners club.
Collection boxes are to be set up at Riverside Park, where the race along the Ararat River Greenway will originate. Runners must bring a new unwrapped toy, suitable for elementary or middle school youths, in order to participate.
A huge supply should result, based on interest seen so far.
“Currently, we have 333 participants signed up,” race spokesman Darren Lewis, the city’s assistant director of parks and recreation, said Thursday afternoon.
“And that’s not counting what’s going to show up Saturday,” said Hiatt.
“We are further along that we were last year,” Lewis said of the same point on the eve of the 2011 Rosy Cheeks gathering. It ended up drawing more than 400 people for both the 5K and half-mile runs.
“It’s not any kind of fundraiser — it’s a toy drive,” Lewis said of Rosy Cheeks’ sole purpose.
Both Lewis and Hiatt say that despite various toy-collection efforts during the holiday season, it is difficult to reach all those in need — which provides a void Rosy Cheeks organizers seek to fill.
“Well, it’s just important because there are going to be kids who are not going to have much because of their families’ finances or the economic situation,” Hiatt said.
Lewis pointed out that Saturday’s collection will ensure everyone is covered, toy-wise. Local school officials have identified children most in need of Christmas gifts, with city police to get them into the right hands.
“We’ll deliver them to people’s homes, or schools,” Hiatt said.
Boxes used to ship large refrigerators were obtained from a Mount Airy appliance business to be decorated and used as collection receptacles for the toys Saturday, he said.
Along with the satisfaction of helping others, all finishers of the Rosy Cheeks 5K will receive a candy cane, with kids to get a special reward for their involvement which was not specified.
Baked goods and cider will be available to help runners recover after the race, when Santa Claus is scheduled to make a special appearance as well.
After starting at Riverside Park, the race course meanders along the greenway for 1.5 miles, with a turn indicated in the H.B. Rowe Environmental Park/ballfield area. From that point, participants will return to the finish line at Riverside Park.
Age-group competition categories include 13 and under, 14-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69 and 70-plus.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or email@example.com.