As Halloween draws near, it’s time for autumn leaves, pumpkins and the Goblin Gallop. And this year’s 19th annual event is Sunday, Oct. 28, at the Fairfax Corner Shopping Center.
It’s a family-friendly race in a cheerful atmosphere, with many of the participants, plus those cheering them on, dressed in Halloween costumes. And afterward, there are refreshments, music, a moon bounce for the children and a costume contest.
“It’s a fun day—everybody in costume, the moon bounce, the hot dogs,” said event organizer George Quadrino. “It’s a festive occasion.”
Rain or shine, the race begins and ends in front of Coastal Flats restaurant. The 1K fun run starts at 8:30 a.m.; the 5K race, at 9 a.m.; and the 5K walk, at 9:10 a.m. Entry fees through Oct. 25 are $23 for the 5K run, $20 for the 5K walk and $15 for the 1K fun run. From Oct. 26 on, those fees, respectively, are $25, $22 and $20. Register at www.goblingallop.org.
People may run individually or as part of 5K teams competing against each other. Participants may be on a coed team of at least four people; the categories are organizations, families and friends. The top team in each category will receive fun awards for best team costume, fastest team—adding up the four members’ times, and for the team with the most members registered before packet pickup on Oct. 26.
Fairfax Station’s Dixon Hemphill is the race director; and because of its headline sponsor, the race's official name is the Valvoline Instant Oil Change Goblin Gallop. It’s also a charitable event that helps a great many people.
ALL PROCEEDS go to the John Quadrino Foundation to Benefit Children with Cancer. George Quadrino established it after his son John died of the disease in 1985 at age 7. And each year, money raised from the Goblin Gallop is used for numerous, small grants to help childhood cancer victims and their families.
“We raised almost $42,000 last year and hope to do even better this year,” said Quadrino. “About 2,300 people participated in last year’s Goblin Gallop; and so far, we’re running about the same this year. Last year, we had 700 people sign up on race day.”
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, including a masters group for those over 40. All children participating receive runner's medals on ribbons to wear around their necks.
All competitors will receive a free, commemorative, glow-in-the-dark T-shirt. It’s decorated with the words, “Goblin Gallop,” in scary orange letters and features a scene of a haunted house on a slate-gray background. It’s also available in long sleeves for $5.
After the race, the band Shaky Ground will perform classic rock on the Fairfax Corner stage, costumes will be judged and more than $3,500 in door prizes will be given away. Most are donated by local merchants and include Redskins tickets, restaurant meals and gift certificates at running stores. Glory Days Grill is the largest prize-contributor, donating $1,000 worth of goodies.
No strollers, dogs or headphones are allowed in the 5K events, but walkers are welcome in the 1K. A computer chip in the runners’ numbers will register their starting and finishing times.
The route is challenging, but runners like it because it's fairly flat, with few hills and all right turns. Pacers Events will handle scoring and results, and the awards ceremony will be on the stage in front of Coastal Flats. Results will be posted that afternoon at http://pacersevents.com/.
Because of the Goblin Gallop, the John Quadrino Foundation is able to make 300 or more grants per year totaling $85,000. The recipient families are referred by pediatric social workers at Inova Fairfax and Children's hospitals, and the grants are given directly to these 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 foundation comes in.
“Last year, for example, we gave six grants for generators,” said George Quadrino. “They went to families whose child relies on a lifesaving machine at home so, if the power goes out, it could be devastating. They’d have to grab the child and head for the hospital.”
“We’ve also purchased wigs for children who’ve lost their hair to radiation/chemotherapy,” he said. “It’s especially important for teenagers who are embarrassed to go out, otherwise.”
In addition, said Quadrino, “We pay a lot of utility bills for electricity, gas and cell phones. Cell phones are so important for a parent to stay in touch with a child in the hospital.”
That’s why having a successful Goblin Gallop is so crucial. “It means so much to the Foundation’s families,” said Quadrino. “It allows us to help twice as many families as we could, otherwise. And that’s what the foundation does---raise money to help people with a child with cancer.”
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 by designating CFC No. 8931, or via the United Way by selecting No. 59426.