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Run4Kayla raises money for children’s programs

By Staff | Apr 14, 2017

A 5K run and walk set for next weekend will help raise funds for two Cape Coral entities.

The 4th Annual Run4Kayla will take place on April 22 starting at 7:15 a.m. at Patriot Elementary School, with registration opening at 6 a.m. Last year, more than 300 total participants took part.

“The most important reason I started it is to give the special needs kids and adults a special day,” organizer Charyse Smith said. “To make them feel like rock stars – to make them feel important.”

Smith is the mother of Kayla Smith, 11, who has spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy.

The Cape family also came up with the event to give back to two entities that they felt do so much for special needs children – Patriot Elementary’s Special Needs Department and Special Equestrians.

“To raise money and to give back to the people who work so hard with our kids,” she said.

Smith noted that the funds go directly to the school’s department.

“It doesn’t go to the district or the whole school,” she said.

As for Special Equestrians, the local organization is run by volunteers.

“They do so much to help the handicapped kids and some adults, too,” Smith said.

Last year, Run4Kayla raised over $10,000 for the two entities.

“It was a record-breaking year,” she said.

Over the past three years, the event has raised approximately $25,000.

“We have over 300 participants, that includes the runners, the walkers, the kids,” Smith said.

She noted that they always shoot to register 500 people.

“This year, we’re actually ahead of schedule,” Smith said. “We are expecting over 300.”

The Run4Kayla fundraiser offers something for everyone.

“It’s an event for everybody,” she said. “There’s so much to do.”

“It’s not only fun, it can be a competitive race,” Smith added.

The opening ceremonies will kick off at 7:15 a.m., followed by the duo team race at 7:25 a.m. She explained that the duo team race is where the registrant pushes a special needs child or adult.

“About 10 people take part,” Smith said. “We’re expecting more this year.”

The cost is $25 in advance or $30 day of for the registrant; both team members get a T-shirt.

The 5K walk and run will start at 7:30 a.m.

“It’s for competitive runners, joggers,” she said. “It’s for everybody.”

The cost is $25 in advance or $30 day of; ages 12 and under are $15 in advance or $20 day of.

“Usually people don’t register until the week of,” Smith said.

As of Thursday, the number of participants was higher than the same time last year.

“Right now we have over 70, which is a good sign,” she said.

Children ages 12 and under also have a chance to take part in a one-mile fun run at 8:15 a.m. Smith explained that it involves four laps around the track. The cost is $10 per child and includes a shirt.

“Everybody gets medals,” she said.

The main event – the wheelchair dash – will take place at 8:30 a.m.

“That’s when all the handicapped kids or adults walk or are pushed one lap around the track,” Smith said. “Everyone is shouting and clapping for them – every year it’s so emotional.”

“Their smiles just light up their faces because they don’t get recognized like that,” she added.

The wheelchair dash is free and everyone will receive a medal.

Smith noted that all fees are waived for the participants with handicaps.

“There’s no charge for special needs,” she said.

The awards ceremony will follow in the school’s cafeteria. Like any typical 5K, awards will be distributed to the overall and top men and women, as well as within various age categories.

There will also be face painting, balloon makers, raffles and live music.

“Whispering Pines is going to be there with their Clydesdale horses,” Smith said.

Special Equestrians will have its tiny pony, Guinness, on site.

“So we’re going to have the largest horse to the smallest horse,” she said.

The Pink Heals firetruck will also be on hand.

Smith encouraged people to sign up and take part or just come out and show their support.

“It’s a very heart-warming event,” she said.

“Come out and have a morning full of love and happiness,” Smith added.

To register in advance, visit online: www.run4kayla.com or stop by The Run Shoppe, at 1407 E. Cape Coral Parkway. Early packet pickup will be held at the shop on April 21 from noon to 6 p.m.

“Everybody gets a shirt, everybody gets a goodie bag,” she said.

People can also visit online to simply donate $20 and receive an event T-shirt.

Patriot Elementary School is at 711 S.W. 18th St.