Hundreds put their best feet forward on a sunny Sunday morning that suited a charitable community tradition to a "tea."
The 26th annual Bigelow Tea Community Challenge drew a large crowd to the Wakeman Boys & Girls Club for what has evolved into a Fairfield fall favorite that, courtesy of the Fairfield-based corporation, benefits a host of civic and community programs throughout the region.
Hundreds of runners, children -- families, couples and singles -- joined by dogs and even a rabbit on a leash turned out for a morning full of activities, with proceeds benefiting 18 area charities selected by Bigelow Tea that focus on improving the quality of daily life for women, children, the elderly and those with special needs.
The morning kicked off with the Kids Fun Run, introduced by Bigelow President and CEO Cindi Bigelow and coordinated by Glen Colello, co-owner of Fairfield's Catch A Healthy Habit shop. Kids raced from one end of the Wakeman soccer field to the other, bestowed with a blue ribbon as they finished.
Next up was the Kids Half-Mile Run, with children runnings laps around the perimeter of the soccer field two and a half times.
The highlight of the morning for many was the computer-chip-timed 5K Road Race, staged in conjunction with a 2-mile Fitness Walk. Tim Milenkevich, 31, of Ansonia, was the top finisher of the 5K, with a time of 15:40 minutes. Mary Zengo, 48, of Wilton, was the top women's finisher, placing fifth overall with a time of 18:15 minutes.
The first 800 adults and first 200 kids to register for the races received a free race tee-shirt, race gift bag and after-race refreshments.
In addition to the athletic activities, there was a marketplace of vendors set up near the entrance to Wakeman Club. Vendors included Jeff Stein of Dash `n Drizzle gourmet olive oils of Fairfield, Rita's Ices and Bigelow Tea's own American Classic Tea. A display of the latter included small note tags on which event attendees could write a message of encouragement to U.S. troops serving overseas. The notes will be attached to 8,000 boxes of Bigelow Tea to be distributed by the USO.
The Bigelow Challenge raised $115,000 for its charities this year, bringing the total since the event's inception to $962,000 -- just shy of the $1 million mark.
"After 26 years, the Bigelow Tea Community Challenge is so much a part of our company culture," said Cindi Bigelow. "We've got great people -- employees, sponsors, volunteers who give it their all to make the event such a huge success and something that's fun for the whole family. It's a fun morning and, in the end, we all win."
For people who didn't attend Sunday's event but would still like to support the efforts of Bigelow Tea's community causes, can learn more at www.bigelowtea.com