The Kappa Foundation of Charlotte’s first Healthy Achievement 5K Run/Walk drew nearly 300 participants to Romare Bearden Park on Saturday, including runner Joon Ko.
First to cross the finish line, he cooled down to the cheers of onlookers along Church Street. “It was a really good time,” said Ko, 34. “And for a good cause.”
Like many others there on Father’s Day weekend, he remembered his dad, who died in 2005 after a battle with cancer.
“He taught me to keep my body and mind fit,” Ko said. “He told me to do it the right way and in the healthy way.”
The new 5K over Father’s Day Weekend was a fundraiser for the Kappa Foundation, a Charlotte-based charitable organization that supports health initiatives and youth mentoring programs in the community. Organizers hope to make the fundraiser an annual event.
“It’s a tremendous success,” said Lance Johnson, foundation chairman. “Word got out and people understood what we were trying to do. And it being uptown helped. That’s a draw.”
A final tally on how much money the event raised wasn’t available Saturday, but Johnson said the goal was $10,000.
Helping with the event was Joshua Jones, 18, who’d been mentored in a Kappa Foundation program beginning in September 2013.
“It taught me a lot of things about how to succeed in life,” said Jones, who graduates Sunday from Olympic High School and plans to attend Winston-Salem State University. “I gained a lot in leadership skills. It helped me get to where I need to be. I wanted to come here today to lend a helping hand in anything I can.”
Chris Dennis, 39, of Charlotte brought his 11-year-old son, Christopher Isaiah, to the event, hoping it would be a good example for staying fit.
After walking in the 5K, they planned to visit Dennis’ father in Sumter, S.C.
“He was a good role model for me,” Dennis said. “He kept me on the right track.”
For his own son, Dennis said he wanted to instill a vision of “service before self and integrity and excellence in everything we do.”
When runner Bernie Micalizzi finished the race he planned to leave on a business trip to Germany where he’d phone his father, who lives in Ireland.
“He’s not been that healthy,” said Micalizzi, 39, of Charlotte. “He’s had heart problems and he’s on dialysis. That’s part of the reason I’m trying to have a healthy lifestyle and to be there for my wife.”
Kristi Booker, 33, of Charlotte came out on what she called “a beautiful day” to take part in the event with her whole family along with her personal trainer.
They’ve all made a commitment for healthy lifestyles, and doing the 5K together “helps solidify that for us,” she said.
Along with her parents, the group included Booker’s sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew.
“My father just turned 70 and he’s probably in better shape than anyone in the family,” Booker said. “He works out everyday, spending a couple of hours in the gym. He swims, bikes, runs, lifts weights. He helps set a good example.”
Her father, retired chemical engineer Ed Booker, said he didn’t get serious about a healthy lifestyle until late in life. Now he tells family members success doesn’t mean much if they’re not in good enough shape to enjoy it.
For him, the 5K on Father’s Day weekend was a special time that stirred memories of his own father.
One of 13 children, Booker grew up in Bessemer, Ala., about 6 miles from the 16th Street Baptist Church where in 1963 a racially motivated bombing killed four girls.
Booker said his father got caught up in a racial incident and had to leave town.
“He supported us the best way he could,” Booker said. “I admired him. He stood up in defense of the family. That’s the essence of fatherhood.”
As the 5K start-up approached Booker said “it’s important older guys be role models for young guys coming along. It’s critical that young people take fatherhood seriously.”