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All Smiles at Burke Lake

Kids Sending Smiles organizes 5K run to fight breast cancer.

And they’re off! The participants in the Kids Sending Smiles 5K to fight Breast Cancer took off the second the horn sounded, headed for trail around Burke Lake Park.

And they’re off! The participants in the Kids Sending Smiles 5K to fight Breast Cancer took off the second the horn sounded, headed for trail around Burke Lake Park. Photo by Andrea Worker.

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Team Stephanie ran as a family, and had other family members on the course, even as the Jetty family crossed the finish line together. They were running for Stephanie, who on the day was a 10 month, 7 days and counting breast cancer survivor. The Jetty family, from left, Luke, Kyle, Jack and Stephanie.

Kids Sending Smiles (KSS), the 501c3 non-profit established and run by a group of elementary school girls from the Springfield and Alexandria areas, successfully completed their most ambitious charitable event to date on Saturday, Oct. 19 at Burke Lake Park. In the two years since they first got together, the girls have raised funds toward the purchase of a seizure dog for a local toddler, collected donations for victims of Hurricane Sandy, and made and sold jewelry for an orphanage in Liberia, to name just a few of the projects they have undertaken in their mission to “… bring happiness to ourselves and others by helping those in need in the United States and around the world.” But at the pre-event meeting last weekend, most admitted to feeling a bit nervous about pulling off an open-to-the-public 5K run/walk to raise funds for the fight against Breast Cancer, even with the help of family and friends, and sponsors like the Metro Run and Walk store, personal concierge CallCindi.com, and the Law Offices of Sean Underwood. Turns out their fears were needless.

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The winner! Michael Carlson, 19, of Alexandria ran the race because of his mother’s connections to parents of the KSS kids. He sailed in at 25:12, but only 2 minutes in front of much-younger Melanie Becker of Springfield.

At about 8:30 a.m. the runners, walkers, and baby-stroller pushers were lined up, instructed and ready to go. And to the relief of the young organizers, there was quite a good turn out. “There’s a lot of people here I don’t know,” said one of the KSS members, in some astonishment. Then the charitable competitors were off, following the well-marked trail around one side of Burke Lake, led by a pacing cyclist, and with members of the Burke Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department paramedic staff standing by, just in case. Thankfully, their help was not called upon as all of the entrants returned safely.

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The Goldsmiths of Springfield wait to cheer on their mom Marisa. From left, Anna, 2, dad Steve, and Ayla, 3. Ayla couldn’t control herself. When mom came around the corner, Ayla took off to help her across the finish line.

Twenty-five minutes and 12 seconds after the start of the race, Michael Carlson, an Alexandria resident and freshman at NoVA, was the first to cross the finish line. Just over two minutes later, Melanie Becker of Springfield became the first youngster to finish, while Rose Kwok, who had come from D.C. to join in, was the first woman to finish. There were ribbons for the winners, but all the participants were greeted at the finish line with cheers and applause for their financial support as well as their physical efforts on the day. When all the entrants were accounted for—safe and sound—those who wanted to linger and enjoy the park and the company wandered back to the picnic area where the KSS’ers had set up some refreshments and goodie bags.

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Kids Sending Smiles founder Stephanie Underwood, 11, Springfield Estates Elementary student, was pleased with the results of the weekend event at the Burke Lake Park.

Springfield Estates Elementary student Stephanie Underwood, the 11-year-old who founded the group with some seven of her friends when she was just 8 years old, was pleased with the results of the day. “We did this because it’s Breast Cancer Awareness month, and most of us know someone or have somebody in our family who had breast cancer, or maybe has it now. This was good.”

Even by their own account, the members of Kids Sending Smiles have taken their charitable efforts to a new level. Check out their website at www.kidssendingsmiles.org or find them on Facebook to see what they will be up to next, and how you can help and get involved.