Runners decked out in Halloween costumes, more than $3,000 in prizes and the chance to help children with cancer — it's no wonder the Goblin Gallop 5K is such a popular race.
This year's event, the 11th annual, is slated for Sunday, Oct. 31, at the Fair Lakes Shopping Center. The 1K fun run begins at 8:30 a.m., followed by the 5K at 9 a.m. Register online at www.signmeupsports.com or call the race line at 703-536-2027.
"We expect about 1,000 runners," said event organizer George Quadrino. "And the glow-in-the-dark T-shirts given to participants will be black with white, glowing ghosts."
The race now has a headline sponsor, so its official name is the Valvoline Instant Oil Change Goblin Gallop. But its purpose is just as heartfelt as ever. Proceeds go to the John Quadrino Foundation to Benefit Children with Cancer — named in memory of George Quadrino's young son who died of cancer in 1985. Referrals come from pediatric social workers mainly at Inova Fairfax and Children's hospitals.
Because medical bills can be so overwhelming, parents of seriously ill children often need help with rent, utility bills or car-repair costs. Many times, one parent has to quit a job to stay home and take care of the child. And a family with no prior financial problems suddenly finds itself in dire straits. That's where the John Quadrino Foundation steps in.
Recently, it gave a $400 grant to the parents of Jacob, 12, with stage IV neuroblastoma, so they could stay with him near the hospital after his latest relapse. Isabella, 9, has leukemia, and her family received $360 to prevent shutoff of their electricity. And $850 went to the family of Jack, 6, with relapsed leukemia. His stepfather abandoned them, and his mother could only return to work part time.
"We also use the grants to send kids to camp, and we bought a golden retriever for one little girl," said Quadrino. "We even arranged for a visit from a grandmother that a child hadn't seen in months. And when a child needs treatment at a hospital far away, usually insurance pays for just one parent to go; we'll pay for the other one. We'll do whatever we can to help."
"When we started this, we expected to make two or three grants a year," he said. "Last year, the foundation made nearly 300 grants totaling over $100,000. We're an all-volunteer group and we pay our own expenses, so all the money received from the race goes directly to the families."
The Goblin Gallop starts and ends in front of Jared's and Applebee's. Entry fees are $20 for the 5K and $15 for the 1K, by Oct. 25; after that date, fees are $25 and $20, respectively. (For more information, see www.goblingallop.org).
The course goes along the Fair Lakes Parkway, is USATF-certified and is part of the Dodge Grand Prix series; race director is Dixon Hemphill. No dogs, strollers, baby joggers or headphones are allowed in the 5K.
Prizes valued at $150, $100 and $50 will be awarded to the top three, overall, male and female finishers. Prizes will also be given to the top three male and female finishers in various age categories.
Packet pick-up is Friday, Oct. 29, from noon-7 p.m., and Saturday, Oct. 30, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., at Gold's Gym, 10201 Main St. in Fairfax (enter via Locust Street). Race-day packet pick-up is 7-8:30 a.m. at the registration desk.
"We distribute more than $300,000 in doorprizes — most donated by local merchants, especially in the Fair Lakes area," said Quadrino. "They include Redskins tickets, meals at local restaurants and gift certificates at running stores. Our largest prize-contributor was Glory Days Grill — no one else came close."
Besides Valvoline, other main sponsors are The Shaffer Charitable Foundation, e-Engineering, Progressive, Washington Intelligence Bureau, Don Beyer Volvo, Gold's Gym and First Horizon. And Quadrino's 10-person committee has been hard at work since January, taking care of all the necessary details to make the race a reality.
Because the Goblin Gallop is always run at Halloween time, lots of the participants and their cheering section come in costume. "Elvis is always in the house," said Quadrino. "The Tin Man usually shows up, and all sorts of ghosts, goblins, witches and all the usual children's costumes. I'm always there dressed as a judge. I'm a lawyer, and that's as close as I'll ever get to being a judge."
And since Valvoline is the major sponsor, its racecar simulator will make the scene. "You can sit behind the wheel and pretend to drive, with a screen showing the road in front of you," explained Quadrino. "And they'll also bring their actual, No. 10 Valvoline NASCAR racecar."
A live band, Cold Steel Benders, will play classic rock, and refreshments will include bananas, bagels, juice, coffee — and 1,000 Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Said Quadrino: "They're warm, and they always go first — and fast."
The event raised $24,000 last year, and he hopes to better that amount. So far, registration is going well, and 550 people have already signed up. The race attracts participants from all over Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland. Results are posted at the end of the day on www.racepacket.com.
Anyone not wishing to participate, but wanting to make a donation may send a check payable to The John Quadrino Foundation to P.O. Box 4614, Falls Church, VA 22044. Contributions are tax-deductible and may also be made via the Combined Federal Campaign/United Way by designating them for CFC/UW No. 8931.