More than 300 take part in Charlotte’s annual Run for Peace

Ken Bender crossed the finish line at the Charlotte Run for Peace at Home 5K run on Saturday pleased with what he’d seen while pounding the trail at McAlpine Creek Greenway.

More than 300 people took part in the 20-year-old walk/run event that generates money for the nonprofit Safe Alliance and its Clyde & Ethel Dickson Domestic Violence Shelter.

Bender noticed fathers encouraging their sons along the race route and he did the same for two young runners. It reminded him about the importance of sound family relationships and why so many people had turned out on an overcast, soggy morning to help fund programs in the community.

“Nobody hasn’t been touched by domestic violence, directly or indirectly,” said Bender, of Charlotte.

He finished the men’s 5K in just under 24 minutes.

“It’s OK for an old guy,” said Bender, 61. “I’ve been running since I was 13 and have a little too many miles on this old chassis.”

Zac Reilly, president of Run for Peace at Home, said Saturday’s family-friendly event carried on a tradition started by his father, the late Tim Reilly. It began as a 10-mile race winding through the SouthPark area and later became a marathon that connected the campuses of Davidson College and Queens University. The marathon evolved into an uptown Charlotte event and then into the 5K format.

But whatever the length of the races Zac Reilly said the theme has always been “peace begins at home.”

Since the event moved to McApine Creek Greenway in 2008 it has raised more than $50,000 for Safe Alliance in its efforts on behalf of local domestic violence victims.

Safe Alliance clinical supervisor Jane Taylor has been at every Run for Peace at Home since the event started.

Raising awareness about domestic violence and involving the community “are as important as anything,” she said. “People who come to the event become ambassadors of our message and the work we do.”

Participants arrived at the greenway long before the first race started at 8 a.m.

They warmed up and stretched to the music of Hunters Travesty, a Charlotte-based roots rock/Americana band. Under one tent, three massage therapists stood by.

Race starter Kyle Hunicke, 36, of Charlotte – in Elvis costume with white jumpsuit and black wig – pondered the numbers he would perform on his trombone: “When the Saints Go Marching In” and “Don’t Be Cruel.”

Also there was Brittney Cason, a former Carolina Panthers cheerleader who has held a variety of positions at CBS in Charlotte. Two weeks ago, she moved to Las Vegas for a radio job, but said she returned to emcee the Run for Peace at Home because “I’m a big supporter of the cause.”

Stephanie Butler, the current “Mrs. North Carolina United States” and a domestic violence survivor, came to share her story at the post-race awards ceremony.

During an abusive relationship with her boyfriend “Safe Alliance helped me,” she said.

“They encouraged me to go to the shelter for counseling,” said Butler, 33, of Charlotte. “I used the court advocacy and was able to stand up to the abuser in court. I would not be here today if it wasn’t for the services offered by Safe Alliance.”

As Kim Laney of Monroe prepared for the women’s 5K, she recalled jogging the McAlpine Creek trail while warming up for last year’s benefit race.

“I saw a snake – a big snake,” she said. “I turned around and went the other way.”

Laney, who works in the Union County District Attorney’s Office, came out again to continue showing support for an event that helps battle domestic violence.

Calling herself a “beginning 5K jogger,” Lanitra Jackson, 43, planned to complete the course with a little walking mixed in. She came out because she has family members who are victims of domestic violence and she supports shelters.

Before moving to Charlotte about 18 months ago, she’d volunteered at domestic violence shelters in the Maryland-Washington, D.C., area.

“This is something close to my heart,” Jackson said. “I want to sign up as a volunteer here.”