In fifth year, Bronco 5K Walk/Run to feature new family-friendly route, raise funds for Burrillville students

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BURRILLVILLE – For the past five years, the annual Burrillville Bronco 5K Walk/Run has served as the premiere fundraiser to help one organization raise scholarship money for deserving seniors graduating from Burrillville High School.

And in 2023, members of the Burrillville Prevention Action Coalition say the BHS class has more deserving students set to walk the stage in June than in any years past, leading to a push for increased participation in the family-friendly fundraiser.

The event will take place on Sunday, Nov. 12, featuring a new, off road course specifically chosen to make it more accessible to families, and walkers who may not be as athletically inclined as the runners who turn out each year.

“Some walkers found it a little difficult,” explained BPAC Coordinator Monica Blanchette of the original 5K route. “This is more of a beginner 5K.”

The course will begin at A.T. Levy Elementary School at 135 Harrisville Main St. and head directly to a nearby bike trail, known as the Harrisville-Pascoag Pedestrian Path. Participants will take a left off the trail and head to a duck pond before traveling to the end of the main path, which comes out by the Pascoag Utility District. On the return route, they’ll take a turn on a second spur that comes out on Railroad Street, before heading back to the school; traveling a complete course that’s just long enough to qualify as a 5K at 3.19 miles.

“We’re also changing the course to give us something new to do, and people something new to run,” said Blanchette, noting that the new route is also an upgrade from a safety perspective. “We don’t have to close off any roads.”

The date this year has also been changed, from the usual first weekend in November to the second, so as not to interfere with Rhode Island Interscholastic League’s annual Cross Country Run, allowing those student athletes to participate. Registration for the race costs just $20 for anyone 18 and under. For adults, the cost is $35.

Awards will be given to the fastest male and fastest female runners in the timed race. Last year, the event brought out around 125 participants, and a 19-year-old runner from Greenville came in first place with a time of 16:05.

The event will begin at 8:30 a.m. with an element added last year to allow the region’s youngest runners to participate: the Kids’ Fun Run. Children age 6 and under will complete a far shorter route, with a second takeoff for children 7 to 10-years-old leaving at 8:45 a.m. The cost for kids to participate is $5.

At 9 a.m., the regular 5K takes off, with a staggered start allowing runners to leave first, followed by walkers.

It’s all aimed at raising funds for a stand-out group of students who have committed to a substance-free lifestyle.

“You’re supporting a good cause for the community,” said Blanchette of participants. “You’re supporting kids who have tried to normalize not using substances through their high school and middle school careers.”

This year, the volunteer coalition expects to see a lot of scholarship applications from students who have participated in BPAC Youth. Some 30 students signed up for BPAC and attended at least two of the group’s meetings during the 2022/2023 school year, or helped out with the organization’s various events and activities. Three students who have been active with BPAC since 6th grade are set to receive diplomas this June, and Blanchette notes that they are among at least seven long-time participants in the program.

“We have seven seniors that are graduating, and I’d really like to have a $1,000 scholarship for each one,” she said.

Funds raised also support various activities throughout the year. The coordinator said that the organization, which is made up of both the youth participants and adult representatives from various sectors in the community such as health care, business and law enforcement, aims to focus on creating more events for families this year, like Family Fun Fridays that took place at Spring Lake Beach over the summer.

“My hope for this year is to encourage families to engage in substance-free activities together,” Blanchette said. “We’re trying to find more ways to engage families where substances don’t have to be involved, so kids have more time with their parent or guardian.”

The 5K, she notes, highlights such good work and the contributions of BPAC students.

“I like having the event because it’s a nice big spotlight,” said Blanchette. “It brings attention to the fact that we have a youth coalition and what the youth coalition does.”

Those who would like to participate in this year’s event can sign up here, and participants who register at least three weeks in advance will receive a free race t-shirt. Those who can’t attend, but would like to make a donation can do so here.

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