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CAN 5K: 7 Years, 7 Figures

Record 820 runners finish Cure Autism Now 5K; annual Fourth of July race in Potomac Village has raised more than $1 million for autism research.

More than 2,000 people began their Fourth of July at Potomac Village for the seventh annual Cure Autism Now last Wednesday. More than 820 runners finished the race, and there were also more than 800 walkers, plus volunteers and spectators formed the largest turnout for the event, now a Potomac tradition.

Race director Susan Pereles had hoped this year’s race would bring the event’s seven-year fundraising total above the $1 million mark, and with proceeds of more than $185,000 from the runners and walkers, the event surpassed Pereles’ goal. "It feels very, very exciting," she said. "That was my goal for seven years."

"We’re excited about that, thanks to everybody here," said Susan’s husband Dan Pereles. "We appreciate you coming out early, early, early on July 4th."

In recent years, many of the runners and walkers have formed teams named after somebody close to them who has autism. Ed Nuttall of Fairfax, Va. was one of 36 walkers who raised nearly $6,000 as part of Owen’s Turn. The team is named for Nuttall’s son, Owen, now 8. Owen was very non-verbal, and the first words he said were "Owen’s turn." This was the second year that Owen’s Turn participated.

"We thought we’d come out and give back," Ed Nuttall said. "The organization has given us so much spirit and so much hope." He added that the CAN 5K allows him, his family and friends to make people aware of autism and to participate in a community event for the Fourth of July.

As for Owen, he took part in the walk, and after the race he was enjoying pizza with some of the children on the team. "He had fun; he was very excited," Nuttall said.

Potomac residents Alisa Kaswell and her father Stuart Kaswell participated in the CAN 5K for the first time. Alisa, a St. Andrew’s graduate and rising junior at Franklin and Marshall University, saw signs for the race at the Cabin John Shopping Center, and she and her father decided to get involved.

"It was a good cause, a beautiful day, and we said, why not?" Stuart Kaswell said.

The event has also become popular with local high-school and college runners who keep in competitive running shape even when school’s out. The top 10 male finishers included Tarik Aougab (Churchill ’06, rising sophomore at University of Pennsylvania), Brandt Silver-Korn (rising Whitman sophomore) and Will Palmer (Whitman ’07, rising freshman at Williams College).

Matt Bernstein, a rising junior at Winston Churchill High School, was among the varsity runners in the race. "I wanted to run a 5K for July Fourth," said Bernstein, whose time of 19 minutes, 12 seconds was No. 31 overall. His Churchill coaches Steve Bettis and David Warren also ran, each posting top-30 finishes.