Runners & walkers wanted: Bronco 5K takes off November 7

Pictured, left to right, top row are Aidan Tupper, Mitchell Daily, Ethan Woods, Cam Blanchard, and Ethan Blanchard. In the middle row are Emily Thompson, Alexandria Brown, Sophia Pouliot and Samantha Mansolf. In the bottom row are Hannah Silvia, Mary Chenot, Kaitlyn Fleming and Monica Blanchette. Sitting in pink is Presley Blanchette.

BURRILLVILLE – Now in its third year, Burrillville Prevention Action Coalition’s annual Bronco 5K walk/run has raised a total of $8,200 for the organization, used for youth substance use prevention initiatives in town and scholarship funds for qualifying Burrillville High School graduates.

The event, scheduled this year for Sunday, Nov. 7, brought out 87 participants in 2019, its first year, for a race along a mostly flat, scenic 3.1 mile route through town, raising $3,200 for scholarship and prevention efforts.

In its second year, despite pandemic restrictions, or perhaps because of them, attendance nearly doubled to 159, and $5,000 was raised.

With the race just weeks away, BPAC Coordinator Monica Blanchette said registrations for 2021 are ahead of schedule from past years – but not enough so just yet to ensure the success of the town-based organization’s main annual fundraiser.

“I love this event because it is a great example of how the Burrillville community comes together for a great cause,” Blanchette said. “It’s also a wonderful time of the year to come out and see the natural beauty of Burrillville.”

Still, she noted, as the race approaches, “part of me wonders what we’re going to see this year.”

Funds raised to date have provided college scholarships for five Burrillville High School graduates, including Samantha Mansolf and John Libby in 2020.

“The scholarships go to Burrillville High School seniors who have dedicated their time to substance abuse prevention,” explained Blanchette, noting students can qualify by participation in school clubs including Varsity Athletes Against Substance Abuse, the BPAC Youth Coalition or Students Against Destructive Decisions.

Burrillville Supt. Michael Sollitto, who has worked with Blanchette and others to organize and promote the race, said the Bronco 5K is, “a wonderful community event.”

“It represents a collaborative effort of many stakeholders throughout the Burrillville community,” Sollitto said. “In addition to raising funds, the Bronco 5K provides an opportunity to raise awareness for all the great work done by the Burrillville Prevention Action Coalition.”

“There is still time left to register if you would like to join us for a nice run or walk during this scenic fall season in town,” Sollitto added.

Blanchette noted that the Youth Coalition, BPAC’s student-led arm for kids in grades 7-12, meets every Sunday, and now has around a dozen members.

“We didn’t have a youth coalition when I started,” said Blanchette, who guides the youth group in joining leadership training seminars and launching prevention initiatives in Burrillville schools. “It’s definitely grown.”

The coordinator, hired in 2018 for a program operated through the Burrillville Police Department, said she’s excited to see outreach efforts paying off, and to work with so many potential future BPAC scholarship recipients.

BPD Col. Stephen Lynch said he’ll be among those running to support the youth’s efforts in substance abuse prevention and raise scholarships funds for seniors.

“The Burrillville 5K has become an outstanding community event for runners, walkers and bringing together people from all throughout Rhode Island,” said Lynch.  “It is great fall event on a Sunday morning.”

Lynch said he hopes many in the community get a chance to take part in the growing race, which he say, “will make you want to come back again next year.”

In 2021, Blanchette said many of last year’s COVID-related safety measures will remain in place, with staggered start times, and registration with bib pickup held in advance on Saturday, Nov. 6 from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. to avoid gathering of potential crowds. The timed race begins at Burrillville High School that Sunday, and leads runners down Whipple Avenue, crossing Route 102 onto Oakland School Street, looping around the village, before returning to the starting point. Awards are given to the top male and female runners overall.

New this year will be a separate route for walkers that’s a bit shorter, and, “We eliminated the awkward turnaround at the top of Whipple Avenue for both groups,” Blanchette said.

“This maintains the distance for the runners,” she added. “This means we will start in waves, one for runners and another for walkers.”

It all kicks off at BHS at Sunday, Nov. 7 at 9 a.m., and the cost to register is $30 for adults or $20 for students. Those who would like to participate can register at Runners and walkers are advised to register early to secure a t-shirt, to be handed out while supplies last.

Those who can’t participate, but would like to donate can do so via the link on the 5K registration site.

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