Runners stretched their legs in the St. Joseph’s College gymnasium on Sunday as they waited to stand behind the ribbon that kicked off the fifth annual Walkathon.
The Walkathon/5K run was held to raise awareness of the Rose Brucia Educational Foundation, which looks to promote stranger safety across the nation, and the Thomas J. Wendt ’88 Alumni Scholarship, which gives scholarships to incoming St. Joseph’s College students.
“Nowadays, the number of child abductions has gone up,” said Sister Elizabeth Hill, president of St. Joseph’s College. “This will help people become aware and help children themselves. Anything for kids is good.”
The sun came out for the participants, who ran and walked more than two miles to the finish line on the Patchogue campus. Meanwhile, family members and friends waited on the sidelines to root them on.
Matthew Colson, of Medford, director of alumni relations and a Brucia board member, ran the course as he pushed his 6-year-old daughter, Ava Rose, in a stroller. Colson, who graduated in 2002, said the race fit into the mission of the foundations.
“It satisfies the core values,” Colson said, adding that one example of the mission of St. Joseph’s College is civic engagement.
In the past five years, the Walkathon has raised about $130,000, including this year.
The Thomas J. Wendt ’88 Alumni Scholarship is in honor of a former student leader and staff member at the college who died unexpectedly in 2004. That was the same year 11-year-old Carlie Brucia, cousin of Matthew J. Barbis, of Medford, the founder of the Rose Brucia Educational Foundation, was abducted and murdered in Florida. The foundation now offers a free stranger safety awareness program that has been downloaded by elementary schools throughout the country and internationally.
“It makes the school aware,” said Ben Tieniber of Medford, president of the alumni association and a 2005 graduate.
The race has grown steadily since its inception five years ago, going from 250 participants the first year to about 400 this year. There were 60 volunteers, as well as organizations like MetLife, which provided a fingerprinting program for children.
“It’s impossible to do without all these people,” Barbis said.