After a quarter-century, the community still rises to meet the "Challenge" posed by Bigelow Tea.
Hundreds turned out Sunday for the Fairfield-based tea company's 25th annual Community Challenge road races, which now raise upwards of $100,000 that is distributed to charities throughout the region. More than $800,000 has been raised by the event for civic and community causes.
"This is a really big day," said Cindy Bigelow, the company president, who served as an emcee welcoming attendees and encouraging people to participate in the fitness activities. "We raised $110,000 in advance this year from our great sponsors and we have gotten the most pre-registrants, 500, to date. With regard to charities, we added Bridge House in Bridgeport, which supports the disabled. And we increased our funding to charities."
In addition to a 5-K race, the Community Challenge events included a 2-mile fitness walk and a "Fun Runs" for youngsters, as well as products and service vendors, a raffle for plane tickets to anywhere in the continental United States and a silent auction of signed New York Yankees sports memorabilia.
"We really tried to have vendors here that are focused on giving back to the community," said Bigelow, "like T.A.I.L.S., Whole Foods Market, the Red Cross and Keep America Beautiful. We're very blessed to be able to do this and are happy that the community responds so positively."
The Kids Fun Run, which attracted 60 children, led off the activities. The young runners, pre-school and elementary school ages, poured it on as they ran from one side of the field at Wakeman to the other, and each was awarded a ribbon for the effort. A half-mile Kids Run followed, with children running three laps around the perimeter of Wakeman's playing field. Nine-year-old Azaan Dawson, of New Haven, who placed first, said, "I felt good about the race. I tried to pace myself. I love to run."
The 2-two-mile Fitness Walk was up next, followed by the 5-K race.
Julie Franco, of Bridgeport, who ran in the 5-K competition, said, "My mom works for Bigelow and I've been coming to this event for years. I like to support the community."