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Youngsters lace up sneakers for annual 2−mile benefit run

Dyker Heights youngsters will be putting their best foot forward, as part of a fundraiser to benefit the children of servicemen and women who were killed in the line of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The event, a two−mile run for children, will be held on Saturday, May 16th, on 12th Avenue, from 82nd Street to 66th Street, and back, from 9 a.m. to noon. It is sponsored by the Dyker Heights Athletic Association (DHAA)⁄St. Bernadette Organization’s Knights, in conjunction with News 12, with the money raised going to the Children of Fallen Soldiers Relief Fund.

The theme of the marathon, said Peter McCarthy, DHAA’s president, is that “freedom is not free.” This is the third time the group has put the event on, he noted, with approximately 280 children participating in 2008.

The event originated, McCarthy explained, “Because we wanted to get involved in more community projects, and we wanted kids to be more involved in the community. They know the money goes to children who don’t have parents because they died fighting in Afghanistan or Iraq. The lesson we are conveying is that freedom isn’t really free. Don’t take it for granted. There are people dying so you can have that freedom.

“It’s also a way of honoring all our soldiers,” McCarthy went on, pointing out that, last year, some Marines were present at the race, and ran with the children. “We are also honoring our veterans,” he added.

Runners wear tee shirts and G.I. bands that reinforce the theme of the event, according to background material provided by DHAA. The G.I. bands, for instance, have such messages as “Some Gave All” and “Defending Freedom” on them.

While the event is propelled by a serious message, it is definitely a child−pleaser, as well. “The kids love it,” McCarthy noted. “They have a great time. Each year, more and more kids join. We have kids coming from all over the community.”

Each child who participates needs to raise a minimum of $35 in sponsorship, said McCarthy. Trophies will be awarded to children in a variety of age groups: kindergarten through first grade; second and third grade, fourth and fifth grade, sixth and seventh grade, and eighth through 12th grade. Those who prefer can walk the route, rather than running it, according to the information distributed by DHAA. Adults are also “welcome to participate,” the organization noted. A party for the children who participate, with entertainment, will be held after the run in the schoolyard at St. Bernadette’s School, 1313 83rd Street.

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