“Come run … Come walk … Come change a life.”
It’s lunchtime in the Bullis cafeteria. Students are mingling and finding their tables, eating while discussing their classes, activities and what to do next weekend. Most students in the cafeteria are planning to spend Sunday, May 4 participating in “Bullis Gives Back” — the run/walk that gives them an opportunity to volunteer to pair up with a “Buddy” from The Diener School, from K.E.E.N (Kids Enjoy Exercise Now) or from the Treatment and Learning Centers/Katherine Thomas School (TLC/KTS).
“It’s fun, and it makes me feel happy to be involved and to give back,” said ninth grader Sydney Geifman.
The 6th annual “Bullis Gives Back” race event is a one-of-a-kind 5K run/2.5K walk — it incorporates a wheelchair accessible “Buddy Run” in which Bullis students run or walk with a special needs child. The proceeds are donated to the three local organizations listed above which educate and support children with special needs, to Habitat for Humanity where Bullis seniors will be volunteering as their Capstone project before graduation and to S.A.F.E. — a fund that covers student activity fees and textbooks for Bullis students in need.
Barbara Guterman and Michelle Benaim are chairing the event for the second year. “This year we will have a Mascot named Samed, a handicapped dog who will be pushed in a stroller by her owner, Anthony Camargo,” said Guterman.
“I found Samed on the island of Koh Samed off the coast of Thailand almost five and a half years ago,” Camargo said. “She had been abandoned as a four-week old puppy. I recognized immediately when I found her that she was in dire need of medical attention and took a speed boat back to the mainland, then drove four hours to get her to a veterinarian in Bangkok, where I was residing at the time. Once the vet examined her, he told me that she would never be able to walk and had brain damage that impaired her ability to move past her current state. Five and a half years later, she has inspired countless owners of handicapped dogs to view their animals as individuals with special needs, and has been responsible by the sharing of her story to save countless of other disabled dog lives throughout the world. Our goal is to interact with children and adults that may have special needs. Samed is an inspiration as well as a great comfort because of her easy nature and love of human interactions.”
The event will take place on Sunday, May 4 on the pastoral grounds of the Bullis campus. Race events will kick off at 8:30 a.m. with check-in and packet pick-up at the Bullis Stadium. The Bullis Buddy Run Warm-up with Aaron Anderson will begin at 9 a.m. and the Bullis Buddy Run/Walk will start at 9:15 a.m. At 10 a.m., the 5K Run will begin and the 2.5K Walk will take place at 10:05 a.m. After the race, Head of School Dr. Gerry Boarman and the Attorney General Doug Gansler will address the crowd before the race awards and raffle drawings are announced.
“‘The Fun Festival’ will run from 9-11 a.m.,” said Benaim. This festival includes sports centers with Bullis student volunteers from the baseball, softball, track and lacrosse teams. The student athletes will toss balls, teach fundamentals and help kids complete an obstacle course. Other activities will include pony and horse rides, face painting, tattoos, inflatable slides and more. Food will be available including pizza and bagels donated by Potomac Pizza.”
Benaim continued, “Each runner/walker will receive an attractive gift bag, donated by A.B.E. Networks, sports bottles from Four Star Tennis, a $5 poker chip from MIX Grill, snacks donated by Monumental Vending, a $10 gift card from Mama Lucia, a race t-shirt, a scoop of ice cream from Sprinkles and more.” The t-shirt and all the graphics for the event were done by Bullis student Starr Howard.
Bullis parent and volunteer Amy Gates explains that this is an event that her entire family can thoroughly enjoy. Her daughter Jessie loves the face painting, tattoos and riding the ponies.
Her son Jason, who attends Bullis said, “It makes me feel good to get to be a ‘Buddy’ to my own brother because it makes him so happy — and it makes all the kids happy. I am also running the 5K.”
Gate’s 11-year-old son, Adam is at Carl Sandburg School for children with special needs. “He loves his brother and his brother’s friends, and running with him makes him feel part of the ‘Big Boy Group,’” she said.
Last year, 1,100 people participated in the run/walk. They raised $65,000 for the race charities. “More important than the money we raise are the experiences of the day — how wonderful the children from the Diener School, K.E.E.N., and TLC/KTS feel being here and participating. It’s all about inclusion, supporting one another — and really, kids helping kids. It’s a wonderful experience for everyone,” Guterman said.
To register for the “Bullis Gives Back” 5K or 2.5-mile walk, go to www.bullis.org/5k. Adults are $25 and children are $10. Sponsorships are available and donations are appreciated. Walk-ins are welcome on race day.