By Natalie Salvatore
For the Opelika
The last Run to Read event is set for Oct. 20. The 10k, 5k run and one-mile Sara Schwarzauer Walk will help raise money for Jean Dean RIF, or Reading is Fundamental. This program’s mission is to provide 20,000 at-risk young children across Alabama with books prior to kindergarten.
Cathy Gafford, the program’s executive director, says that giving preschool children age-appropriate, top-quality books who might not have them in their homes otherwise raises the community’s overall literacy level.
Children who read increase their vocabularies when they start school, according to Gafford. This also makes family literacy possible when households contain books.
Gafford said the Jean Dean RIF program is also ending this year, but on a high-note, as it has provided almost two million top-quality books to more than 600,000 children in need.
“Because the Alabama Kiwanis Foundation voted in February 2019 to end the Jean Dean RIF program at the end of its 30th year, this will be the 12th and last Run to Read. It is still an important fundraiser to provide books to the children we serve this school year,” Gafford said.
This year’s Run to Read is being dedicated to Opelika Kiwanian Rich Bailey, who originally started the event and was the run’s director for nine years.
The event is free for ages 0 to 4. For ages 5 to 100, early registration is $20, and event-day registration will cost $30. Run T-shirts are $10 and are not included in the registration fees.
The festivities begin at 2:30 p.m., with races starting at 3 p.m. and the Walk at 3:15 p.m. There will also be an awards ceremony providing age group medals and awards for top runners, as well as a special award for the oldest runner to finish.
Other festivities will include a top door prize of a one-night “STAY-CATION,” free health screenings, snacks and photo opportunities with local celebrities. Guests also have a chance to meet Alabama author Dean Bonner, Aubie and Clifford the Big Red Dog. The event is accepting shoe donations for SHOES4BOOKS.
Run to Read will take place at the West Ridge Park in Opelika, located at 1600 Covington Ave. For more information, contact Gafford at firstname.lastname@example.org or 334-750-9974.