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Tux on the Run 5K supports Mercy YMCA programs

story and photos by Emily Hilley-Sierzchula, special to The City Wire

More than 100 people enjoyed cool weather and a cloudless sky while they ran in the 13th annual Tux on the Run 5K, which benefitted the Northwest Arkansas Mercy Family YMCA in Rogers.

Two teenagers were the first finishers, including Enrique Perez, 19, who finished with a time just over 17 minutes. Natalie Watkins, 13, was the first female across the finish line, racing ahead of women much older than her.

The event is expected to raise up to $3,000, said Ashton Caton, the health & wellness director at the YMCA. All of the funds raised came from race registration fees.

“Last year and this year have been our biggest years so far,” she said. “About 80%” of the funds will go directly toward the YMCA scholarship fund, which helps Arkansans with lower incomes afford YMCA children’s programs.”

The YMCA is able to charge fees on a sliding scale according to family income because of fundraisers like Tux on the Run.

The YMCA gives out almost $16,000 in scholarships for preschool programs and more than $12,000 in scholarships for summer camps, said Ashley Herrington, the youth & family director.

“This event will help hundreds of children,” she said.

The biggest change this year from previous years was the addition of “chip timing,” which is an accurate and easy way to record runners’ start and finish times. Each runner had a chip in their shoe that recorded exactly when they crossed the line.

Not all participants were hard-core, competitive runners. Becky Ritter and Laura Rai were the last to cross the line, holding hands, smiling and hugging. Ritter traveled from Columbia, Ill., to support her friend Rai, who had trained for the event.

“I’m here to cheer on my friend,” Ritter said.

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Trophies were given out to the male and female first place finishers, as well as medals for age group finishers, best dressed, and best embodiment of the penguin theme.

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