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Organizers infuse 5Ks with resourcefulness, relevance

Feet were on the move Saturday morning in two inaugural 5K events designed to raise awareness for important social issues: veteran suicide and human trafficking.

Pennsylvania College of Technology’s student veterans fraternity, Omega Delta Sigma, held a 5K Silkies Run on campus, starting at the Field House. Across town at Montoursville’s Indian Park, the Race for Freedom 5K was hosted by three Hughesville High School students whose social change project topped the Penn College Youth Leadership program this year.

In his comfort zone is the aptly named Major, getting a calming pre-race hug from Corey J. Carr, a heating, ventilation and air conditioning technology student and member of the U.S. Army Reserve.
In his comfort zone is the aptly named Major, getting a calming pre-race hug from Corey J. Carr, a heating, ventilation and air conditioning technology student and member of the U.S. Army Reserve.
"Sky's out, thighs out!" Honoring that reminder to ditch long pants and don running shorts in good weather, some participants in the veteran-sponsored 5K pose in front of the Field House.
“Sky’s out, thighs out!” Honoring that reminder to ditch long pants and don running shorts in good weather, some participants in the veteran-sponsored 5K pose in front of the Field House.

Donations from the free Silkies Run are going to American Rescue Workers.

Silkies runs and hikes have become popular events bringing veterans together to promote camaraderie and military suicide prevention.

Shane R. Betts, a business management student and Marine veteran, spearheaded the run.

And they're off! Runners (pace dog included) round the corner near the new water feature outside College Avenue Labs.
And they’re off! Runners (pace dog included) round the corner near the new water feature outside College Avenue Labs.

“I decided to do this to bring everyone together and give us a chance to bond with the community,” he said, “and for people to realize what Omega Delta Sigma is about.”

Penn College Youth Leadership winners (and Race for Freedom organizers) from Hughesville High School (from left) are Ammar-Khodja, Woolcock and Hall.
Penn College Youth Leadership winners (and Race for Freedom organizers) from Hughesville High School (from left) are Ammar-Khodja, Woolcock and Hall.

Proceeds from Race for Freedom registrations are being contributed to YWCA of Northcentral PA and Transitions of PA, community-based organizations that offer services such as emergency housing and legal advocacy.

Pace, a second-place finisher in his age group, receives a medal ... and the students' gratitude for his support of their initiative.
Pace, a second-place finisher in his age group, receives a medal … and the students’ gratitude for his support of their initiative.

Representatives of the two organizations, as well as Expectations Women’s Center, were on hand to share information on resources and the fight against human trafficking in the central Pennsylvania region.

Anthony J. Pace, director of student activities, who worked with the Penn College Youth Leadership teams – including the Hughesville trio of Valerie Ammar-Khodja, Lauren Hall and Logan Woolcock – said:

Shnyder offers information on human trafficking in the area and thanks the high school students for their efforts.
Shnyder offers information on human trafficking in the area and thanks the high school students for their efforts.

“We’re so excited to see such a dedicated group of students making an impact in our community as a result of their participation in the Penn College Youth Leadership Program. The Hughesville High School student group has worked incredibly hard to plan the Race for Freedom 5K and to bring attention to issues surrounding human trafficking in our area. We are Penn College Proud of the students and this event’s important message.”

Heather Shnyder, education specialist with Transitions, said she is impressed with the students’ ability to comprehend the importance of education and awareness surrounding the topic of human trafficking and proud of their efforts in tackling the daunting task of organizing a community 5K event. She concluded, “They make me feel this generation is going to change the world.”

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