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Get Ready for the Goblin Gallop

Proceeds help families of children with cancer.

Fittingly enough for a Halloween-themed race, this year's Goblin Gallop 5K Race and 1K Fun Run will be the 13th annual. It's set for Sunday, Oct. 29, at the Fairfax Corner Shopping Center, off West Ox Road and Monument Drive.

THE FUN RUN starts at 8:30 a.m., and the 5K, at 9 a.m. Register online at www.Active.com. Besides the prizes awarded to the top finishers, more than $3,500 in doorprizes are given away, plus awards for the best costumes. And there's even a live band, refreshments and cool, glow-in -the-dark T-shirts.

"It's a family-fun event, a competitive race that attracts the top runners in the area and something that raises money for families of children with cancer," said event organizer George Quadrino.

His son John died of the disease in 1985 at age 7, and all the race proceeds go to the John Quadrino Foundation to Benefit Children with Cancer. Last year the foundation made nearly 300 grants totaling more than $100,000.

Because the Goblin Gallop is always run at Halloween time, a good number of the runners and walkers — and those cheering for them — come in costume. And the creativity of the outfits adds to the festivities.

"Elvis always makes an appearance," said George Quadrino. "And last year, Superman and Wonder Woman ran together." A lawyer, Quadrino always gives himself a job promotion for the Goblin Gallop by donning a judge's robe for his costume.

Other memorable participants last time included girls dressed as ketchup and mustard bottles, a man decked out as a beer keg, a woman in a bright-pink flamingo costume and a man who ran the entire race while carrying a boombox on his shoulder.

Rain or shine, the Goblin Gallop starts and ends in front of Coastal Flats restaurant. Entry fees are $20 for the 5K and $15 for the 1K. After Oct. 23 and on race-day, registration is $25 and $20, respectively. (For more information, see www.goblingallop.org).

THE COURSE is USATF-certified, and prizes valued at $150, $100 and $50 are awarded to the top three, overall, male and female finishers. Prizes are also given to the top three male and female finishers in various age categories. And all children participating will receive runner's medals on ribbons to wear around their necks.

Packet pick-up is Friday, Oct. 27, from noon-7 p.m., and Saturday, Oct. 28, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., at the REI sporting goods store at Fairfax Corner (11950 Grand Commons Ave.) Race-day packet pick-up is 7-8:30 a.m. at the registration table.

No dogs or headphones are allowed in the 5K, but walkers are welcome in both the 1K and 5K. The latter event is a Championship Chip race, so a computer chip tied onto the runners' shoelaces will register their starting and finishing times.

Some 1,125 people participated in last year's race, raising more than $30,000 for the John Quadrino Foundation. "So far, we have about 700 registered this year," said George Quadrino on Tuesday. "So we're looking for about 1,200 total because we're about 100 ahead of last year's registrants at this time."

And although the route is challenging, the runners generally like it because it's relatively flat and has few hills and all right turns. From the shopping center, participants turn right on Random Hills Road, right on Ridge Top Road, right on Monument Drive and right on Government Center Parkway.

Capital Running Co. will handle the scoring and results, and the awards ceremony will be on the stage in front of Coastal Flats. Results will be posted that afternoon on www.runwashington.com.

Everyone competing will receive a commemorative, chocolate-brown T-shirt decorated with a haunted house with ghosts flying out of the windows. And the house and ghosts glow in the dark.

Afterward, a live band, The Sparkplugs, will entertain the crowd with classic rock, and refreshments including bagels and muffins from Panera, juice, fruit, AquaCal flavored water and coffee will be available. There'll be a massage table, and Gold's Gym will hand out free passes. And children are sure to enjoy the pumpkin patch with Halloween decorations and cornstalks.

But that's not all. A whole slew of doorprizes will be awarded, most donated by local merchants, especially in the Fair Lakes/Fairfax Center area. They include Redskins tickets (they've gotta win sometime, right?), meals at local restaurants and gift certificates at running stores.

Because of its headline sponsor, the race's official name is the Valvoline Instant Oil Change Goblin Gallop. And Glory Days Grill is the largest prize-contributor, donating $1,000 of the doorprizes. Other main sponsors are The Shaffer Charitable Foundation, e-Engineering, Washington Intelligence Bureau, Don Beyer Volvo, REI, Panera Bread and AquaCal.

Quadrino's 10-person race committee has been working since January. "The hardest part is all the details," he explained. "There's a lot of small things that have to come together."

About 100 volunteers will help out on race day, monitoring the course, manning the food stands, handling registration and distributing chips to the runners and medals to the children. Quadrino's favorite part of the event is the fun run — "Seeing all the kids in costume; they all come running down. My son would have enjoyed it."

BUT WITHOUT the efforts of all the dedicated sponsors and volunteers, said Race Director Dixon Hemphill, "We could not have this race to help families who are trying to cope with a child with cancer. Our hearts truly go out to these families."

Hemphill was a runner for 30 years and has been involved in this event since its inception. "It's a great cause," he said. And although the grant amounts received by the families are small, he said, their impact is large: "They help many families, and it goes on, year after year."

John Quadrino battled cancer for three years — even undergoing a bone-marrow transplant — before succumbing. And both the Goblin Gallop and the nonprofit foundation in his name honor his spirit and compassion toward other seriously ill youngsters.

Referrals come from pediatric social workers mainly at Inova Fairfax and Children's hospitals. And all the money from the race goes directly to the children's families.

Because medical bills can be overwhelming, parents of seriously ill children often need help with rent, utility bills or car-repair costs. Often, one parent must 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 comes in.

For example, recent grants included $550 to the family of 8-year-old Ollie with a brain-stem tumor, enabling his mother to arrange day care for Ollie's two younger siblings so she can spend mornings with Ollie in the hospital.

And $380 restored phone service to the family of 7-year-old Angela with Burkitts Lymphoma. She's been hospitalized for more than four months, and phone service was essential for her family to call the hospital and her.

And $1,000 went to the family of 3-year-old Noelle with leukemia. After falling three months behind in their rent, they were about to be evicted from their apartment. Her father had returned to work after spending two months caring for her and her brothers, but he couldn't pay the back rent.

And that's why the Goblin Gallop — which attracts participants from throughout the Washington Metropolitan area, as well as North Carolina and West Virginia — is so invaluable.

To donate to the organization, send checks 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.