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"Kids of the 5K" Named Volunteers of the Year

The Wilson kids have been with the race from the very beginning!

Click here for a photo album of our "Kids of the 5K"

In this the twelfth year of the race, we are naming all the kids who have volunteered throughout the years as our "Volunteer of the Year". We have always made kids a priority for the race with reduced entrance fees for all of our grammar and high school runners. Some of these kids we are honoring have literally grown up in front of us as they first arrived (OK maybe kicking and screaming at times) with parents and aunts and uncles to help handle they myriad back ground tasks that make our race possible. Today, many of them are in college, and we hope they'll continue to come back to help us even after they graduate.

While you may not have noticed them, they have been packing goody bags, folding t-shirts, collecting bibs and chips, marking and monitoring the course and helping to set-up and clean-up. As they got older they also helped handle registration and distribution of runners bags and numbers. Some even went on to run in the race - or even sing the Star Spangled Banner to start the race.

We don't want to miss anyone, but Tyler and Emily Gaetano, Sean, Jeff and Colleen Wilson, Chris and Lauren Pawlowski, Mary Ann and Joey Linebarger, Theresa Curran, Elise Wardell and Tyler, Brian and Zach Haywood are regulars. Two of our "Plankholders", Dave and Joey Stein have been running since grammar school and now are at Northeastern and BC. Emily Gaetano and Stein were recently congratulated by Yale Univerity for being selected as "Outstanding Students at Shelton High School" by the New Haven Register. Emily is now a student at the University of Alabama, but we think she really captured the spirit of the Commodore Hull Race in this piece that she wrote as part of her college application:

For most kids, Thanksgiving is about getting a couple of days off from school and gorging themselves on crispy turkey and sweet pumpkin pie. But to me, Thanksgiving is all about the Commodore Hull 5K road Race. It began in 2002, when my dad got the idea to have a charity race for the Boys’ and Girls’ Club of the Lower Naugatuck Valley. Over a eleven-year span, the race has donated over $110,000 to the Club, which goes towards funding programs and building renovations. I am extremely proud to say that I have volunteered for the race for the past eleven years, and have honestly loved every minute of it.

When the race started twelve years ago, I was only in the second grade. Although I was young, I helped by folding shirts and handing out good-bags to the runners. Now that I am older, one of my main duties is helping with registration and making sure that the runners get their correct number and timing chip. I am also in charge of teaching the new volunteers how to help. The race directors know I am responsible and dependable: I have gotten up every Thanksgiving morning at 6:00 a.m., despite freezing rain and snow, so that I could be down at the Shelton Farmers’ Market to volunteer for the race. My family and I have also donated hundreds of hours towards preparing for the big day.

During its first year, the race had only 300 runners. Today, 750 people, from places as far away as California and Hong Kong, are part of the race. It is amazing to see so many people coming together for a fun event which helps the Boys’ and Girls’ Club. I love volunteering for the race because I am able to see how my contributions truly benefit the community and help bring people together. By giving my time and effort, I make it possible for the race to continue to grow and thrive each year. Even more importantly, I know that I am helping the Boys’ and Girls’ Club, where many Shelton kids hang out. It runs after school programs for students and has many recreational sports leagues for kids and teenagers. The Club is a safe and welcoming place for kids to spend time, and I am proud to support that.

The race is not finished even after the last runner has crossed the finish line. I stay for two to three hours after to help clean up the course and collect the trash. The leftover food is put away and then donated to local area food banks. I box up extra T-shirts and good bags. Runners’ timing chips have to be collected and put back in numerical order. Any missing chips need to be tracked down. So much effort is put into the race, but it is all worth it.

Besides just volunteering, I also run in the Commodore Hull 5K Road Race. This combination allows me to appreciate all of the hard work that makes the race possible, and also enjoy an exhilarating run at 8:00 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning. I see how all of my volunteering has helped make the even successful, healthy, and fun for so many Valley families. I love seeing my high school friends and their families, and knowing that I am part of the reason that they got to run in the race. I feel like I am a part of the community and that my actions really can make the world a better place.


And that explains why Emily and all her friends are our 2013 Volunteers of the Year!

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