There's still no cure for the hepatitis C that took Tim Harmon's life in 1999 at age 51. But it's hoped that funds raised by a 5K race in his honor will help toward that goal and also educate the public about this disease.
THE SEVENTH annual Tim Harmon Memorial 5K Run/Walk will be held Saturday, June 17, at 8:30 a.m. at the Fairfax County Government Center. And proceeds from the race go to charities including the Hepatitis Foundation, the American Liver Foundation and local drug-treatment centers. A special contribution will also go to the families of the two recently slain police officers from the Sully District Station.
Last year's event attracted 750 participants, and race director Tom Cook of Chantilly's Armfield Farms community is looking forward to an even larger turnout, this time.
"Every year, we want the race to be bigger and better than the previous year," he said. "We're already up to 250 people registered, and there's always a last-minute rush, that morning."
Prizes are awarded to the top three, male and female overall finishers, plus the top three finishers in 14 age groups in five-year increments. More than 100 trophies, plaques and medals will be presented. A whole slew of door prizes from local merchants will also be awarded, and there'll be a silent auction for sports memorabilia.
REGISTER online at www.racepacket.com. Entry fee is $20 and registered participants receive custom T-shirts. Cook's colleague, Kay Rankin, designed the shirts with the event's name and a cool drawing of a running shoe accented in yellow and blue. For more information, call 703-934-8756 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Or see www.timharmon5k.org.
Harmon lived in Sterling, worked 20 years for Fairfax County and was the Director of Residential Services for Alcohol and Drug Services. He founded a substance-abuse treatment program for teen-agers, and Cook worked for him.
"He hired me in 1984 for Fairfax County's Alcohol and Drug Services," said Cook, who still works for the county ensuring that teens needing help fighting substance abuse receive it.
Because of Harmon's efforts, seven new residential treatment programs were opened. He also helped expand those at A New Beginning and Fairfax Detox in Chantilly, New Generations in Vienna, plus Crossroads and Sunrise House.
But hepatitis C — which he'd contracted years earlier, but didn't realize — took his life. So it's hoped that money raised by the 5K will help find a cure and the literature in the race packets will educate people about this silent killer. Cook, who's also a runner, directs the race each year "in memory of Tim and as a way to raise some awareness of the disease."
The course is mostly flat and fast. It begins and ends in front of the Government Center and goes out to West Ox Road and Monument Drive. And Cook's pleased that it's so centrally located. "We do get some runners from [Washington], D.C. and Maryland," he said. "But the majority of our people come from Northern Virginia. And it should be a good weekend, too, with very few other big races that day."
A LIVE, classic-rock band, The Sock Monkeys, will entertain before, during and after the race. And post-race refreshments including bagels, juice and soda will be available.
There are four race divisions: Runners/walkers, Fairfax County employees, baby joggers and — new this year — public safety. "Fire and police personnel each have running teams, representing various stations from throughout the county," said Cook. "They'll compete against each other in this division, and we've got special team and individual trophies for them."
The top five firefighters and police officers will receive awards. And, added Cook, "Because of the recent tragedy [in which two county police officers were shot and killed], the race committee will make a special donation from some of the race proceeds to the trust funds set up for the families of Vicky Armel and MPO Mike Garbarino. I thought it was the right thing to do."
Last year's race raised nearly $12,000 and, since it costs about $7,500 to put it on, Cook said the goal is "to get as many sponsors as we can, so as much money as possible can go to the charities. And this year is our best one for sponsors."
Every year, the 380 employees of the county's Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) raise money on their own for a charitable cause. "Last year, it was the tsunami victims," said Cook. "This year, they selected us."
As a result, two weeks ago, the DPWES presented Cook with a check for $5,042. "That made our race," he said. "It was really wonderful, and we're extremely happy to have them involved."
Other major sponsors include Booz-Allen-Hamilton, CASSADAY Inc. and Hilltop Sand & Gravel. "We have about two dozen sponsors altogether," said Cook. "And this time, the sponsors alone have brought in $11,000."
A wide variety of gift certificates and coupons will be awarded in random drawings. "Many local restaurants have donated dinners for two, and we've gotten lots of support from the community," said Cook. "Blue Iguana gave a $200 donation toward the race and gave us gift certificates for brunches and dinners for two."
Also contributing gift certificates were: Milwaukee Frozen Custard, Red Rocks, Glory Days, Wegmans, Metro Run & Walk, Papa John's Pizza, The Polo Grill and Spartan's restaurant.
THE SILENT auction is always a highlight of the event, and this year's is no exception. Participants may vie for items including: Footballs autographed by just-retired, New England Patriots' quarterback Doug Flutie and by Washington Redskins linebacker Marcus Washington; photos signed by former Redskins Dexter Manley, LeVar Arrington, Joe Jacoby and Fred Smoot; and signed photos of Baltimore Orioles players such as third-baseman Kevin Millar.
When Harmon died, he was the director of all Fairfax County residential-treatment programs. Cook's wife Peggy now holds that post. His disease was discovered through a routine blood test but, unfortunately, there's no vaccine for hepatitis C.
And, said Peggy Cook, "Because there are no symptoms, people really aren't aware they have it until they go to the doctor and are diagnosed." But by then, she said, "They find out they've had it for possibly 20 years and it's already damaged their liver — and that's exactly what happened to Tim."
She said more people in the U.S. have hepatitis C than have HIV, and another 4 million haven't yet being diagnosed. (For more information, call 1-800-891-0707 or visit www.hepfi.org).
On Monday, the Board of Supervisors declared race day, June 17, as Hepatitis Awareness Day in Fairfax County. Noting how Harmon used his own illness to help and teach others and urge them to get tested and seek help, Peggy Cook called him a "wonderful man. He probably expanded treatment 200 percent for Fairfax County residents."
Harmon's wife of 22 years, Becky, is a mental-health therapist in Sterling. Their two daughters, Cara and Rachael, are now 24 and 19, respectively.