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Challenged Child puts on its 'most successful race'

Sunday's event brought the nonprofit its 'biggest turnout ever'

POSTED: March 6, 2011 11:34 p.m.
SCOTT ROGERS/The Times

Participants in the 19th Annual Challenged Child and Friends 1 mile fun run make their way down Riverside Drive through the campus of Riverside Military Academy Sunday afternoon.

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More than 1,300 runners and walkers from across North Georgia ran a race Sunday at Riverside Military Academy to raise money for a local nonprofit organization.

"It's our biggest turnout ever," said Lee Highsmith, development and marketing director for the nonprofit, Challenged Child and Friends.

This is the 19th year the nonprofit has held the race, and the event had more than 20 sponsors from the local community.

"It's a real community effort," Highsmith said. "Local artists even donated original pottery for the awards."

Challenged Child and Friends is a nonprofit center for the education of children with special needs. It has several different programs that use an integrated system where special needs children grow and learn alongside their typically developing peers.

"This is our most successful race," Highsmith said, "and it's great for us because we're a nonprofit. We have to raise $1.4 million each year through donations and events like this."

Last year, Challenged Child and Friends served 393 children from 14 different counties.

The racing began with a one-mile "fun run" followed by the main event, a 5-kilometer run on Riverside Drive.

Clay Howarth, a junior from North Forsyth High School, won the race with a time of 17 minutes, 20.2 seconds.

"If I had someone ahead of me," he said, "it would've pushed me into finishing quicker."

Howarth has only been running cross country for six months, and this is his first semester on his school's team.

"I like running because it fits my personality," Howarth said. Being athletic his whole life, he likes to compete in sports events but "running lets me beat people without touching them."

Not everyone who participated ran the entire 5 kilometers like Howarth did. Many wanted to walk the distance while others even brought along children in their strollers to support Challenged Child and Friends.

One of these groups was Journey, a Bible study group of more than 30 people from the First United Methodist Church, who ran in the name of a child in one of the nonprofit's programs, Gracy.

"It's a really good cause," said Journey member Cliff Oliver. "We're just happy to support it." 



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