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Two boys running at a race

Two participants race for the finish line at the Burnsville Fit Families 5K. Every kid gets a prize, regardless of when they finish the race. To encourage families to participate, Grand Prizes are given to the first male finisher, the first female finisher, and the first family group to finish.

Partners Aligned for Health (PATH) Burnsville, NC

Yancey County

For one Saturday in May, the town of Burnsville closes its roads, and hundreds of people gather at the starting line for the annual Burnsville Fit Families 5K. To encourage healthy habits at an early age, everyone under 18 gets to run the race for free. The race is held in downtown Burnsville, with home base at a central church. People can register online in advance to get a free t-shirt, or they can sign-up the day of the race. Along with a t-shirt, participants also receive a goodie bag that includes a water bottle, and every child gets a prize donated by local businesses.

This race could not happen without the support of volunteers. In the months leading up to the race, volunteers help by getting sponsorships, packing goodie bags for racers, and putting up signs along the race course. On the day of the race, 40-50 volunteers help with registration, water stations, and directing people along the course. Volunteers also organize fun stations at the end of the race, like a smoothie station, DJ booth, and face painting.

Here are a couple things that PATH, the race organizers, have learned along the way:

Have Lots of Water Stations: Kids drink more water than adults, so it is important to have a good number of water stations along the course and at the finish line.

Don’t Get Discouraged: It took a few years for this 5K to really become popular. Their first event in 2010 only drew a handful of people, but in 2017 they had almost 200 racers.

Here’s some advice from the Fit Families 5K Organizers:

  • Date: Choose your date at least 6 months in advance. You will need to coordinate with the Town and the Department of Transportation to close the roads, and you will want to make sure there are no other big events planned for the same day. You will also need to make sure the police and fire departments are available to direct traffic and provide support.

  • Sponsorships: You will need some sponsors to cover the 5K race expenses. PATH mails out a letter and commitment form to area businesses, but they have found that asking in person is most effective. You can list sponsors on a t-shirt, or have space for them to set up tables at the race.

  • Timers: Timing racers and having prizes for top finishers makes the race feel more “real” to kids. PATH used to do this by hand, but doing so requires at least 12 people, sharp eyes, and a lot of calculations. They now hire a professional timer for their race, which they ask one company to sponsor.




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