5K raises money for health awareness

The series is part of an MU Health Care program.
Abbey Kempf, left, and Chloe White, right, finished the ‘Pace Race’ step by step Saturday morning at Cosmo-Bethel Park. The ‘Pace Race’ was a charity event to fund the arts program "Kids in the Act."

About 30 Columbia residents took off running Sunday morning down Bethel Road to raise money to tell the story of Benjamin Saar.

Saar, a boy who died in 1987 at the age of 8 from complications brought on by AIDS, is the subject of a play titled “Yellow Boat.” Saturday’s runners ran to raise money so that Columbia arts group, Performing Arts in Children’s Education can produce the play in January.

PACE has local children audition and rehearse for the plays, some of which are performed at Jesse Auditorium.

According to the story of “Yellow Boat,” Saar coped with his illness, which resulted from hemophilia, by learning to paint and draw. At Saturday's race, PACE Executive Director Megan White said the group chose the play to demonstrate the healing power of a positive attitude.

“The idea behind it is educating our actors, our audience and our community about an issue that affects a lot of people,” she said.

White said the turnout for Saturday’s race at Cosmo-Bethel Park in south Columbia was about what she expected since the race was held on the same day as the first MU home football game.

PACE Youth Theatre produces the plays annually through Art in Health Care, a program within MU Health Care that is meant to raise awareness of childhood illnesses and disability.

White said PACE decided to hold the 5K as a fundraiser because it was easy to coordinate and because they wanted to choose an activity that promotes a healthy lifestyle.

“This is a really healthy town that loves to race so it seemed like a perfect match,” she said.

Columbia resident Brad Earnest was the first runner to cross the finish line at Saturday’s race, taking the win in a time of 18:05.

Earnest — who is training for a marathon with his wife, who finished second in the race — said the course consisted of gently rolling hills and relatively mild terrain but also said the heavy humidity for the early morning race made running difficult.

“The course is nice,” he said. “It’s kind of flat and gentle and then rolling but the humidity is really high and that tends to take a lot out of you.”

Earnest said his children have performed in PACE plays in years past and that was in part what drew him to the race. “We’re very supportive of the theater,” he said.

Several people at the race were acquainted either through PACE or the Columbia Track Club and ran the race together.

Abby Kemp and Chloe White, both 12, ran the entire race and sprinted across the finish line matching each other step for step as their parents and other racers cheered them on.

Kemp said that she and White are both involved in PACE and are currently rehearsing for the performance of “Yellow Boat.”

“We’re actually going to play practice right after this,” Kempf said, smiling as she caught her breath.

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