This year's race kicked off Memorial Day weekend on Saturday, May 24, at Settlers' Park in downtown Plainfield.
Sponsors for the annual event, which raises money for wounded servicemen and women in the south suburbs, said it’s not a surprise that the race is gaining popularity.
Jean Perle, co-owner of Mark Peter’s Diamond Designs in Plainfield, has been involved with the race since its first year.
“In my heart, it is the perfect way to start Memorial Day weekend,” said Perle, who this year contributed jewelry and gift cards to the event.
Perle’s son, 24-year-old Brett Perle, is an active-duty Army Ranger. Jean said he’s been deployed seven times — six times to Afghanistan and once to Iraq. He’s currently stationed in Savannah, Georgia.
She said she learned of the 5K when Judi Stapleton from Operation Welcome You Home stopped in to the Route 59 jewelry store. “I said, ‘You came to the right place,’” Perle said with a laugh.
Funds raised from 5Ks have helped Operation Welcome You Home sponsor two rooms — and fully equip them to care for vets — in the new hospice unit at Edward Hines Jr. Veterans Administration Hospital.
OWYH founder Donna Morsovillo said funding from the 5K also helped the organization provide Action TrackChair all-terrain wheelchairs to two area wounded veterans this year. The chairs, which are custom fitted and include accessories to meet the veteran's specific needs, cost a total of $35,000.
As for the 5K, it's more than just a race, according to sponsors.
“As a runner, the course is great,” Perle said, adding that the abundance of food — courtesy of local businesses — is also a draw for running enthusiasts, but it’s more about the spirit of the event.“It’s the feeling that you get, it’s not just the race, that makes people want to come,” she said, adding the location in downtown Plainfield’s Settlers’ Park is also a draw.
“Anything that puts Plainfield on the map is amazing,” Perle said.
Chrissy McCroskey, owner of Culver’s of Plainfield, was also a part of the event this year, providing coffee and scoops of custard at the race.
McCroskey said Culver’s has been part of OWYH’s welcomes for area servicemen and women in the past, so getting involved in the 5K was an easy decision.“It reaches local families, that’s what I love,” she said. “What’s really cool and different about this 5K is just the intensity of emotions,” said McCroskey.
Each year, the event opens with a ceremony to recognize local wounded warriors. “It’s so cool to watch, and so powerful,” McCroskey said.
Brandon Graves, owner of Peter Rubi produce store on Route 59, got involved in the 5K for the first time this year, providing apples for all the runners.
“We thought what Judi was trying to do was just phenomenal,” Graves said, referring to Stapleton, an OWYH organizer and daughter of founder Morsovillo. “I thought any way I could help out would be great — that’s just what we do.”
Graves said he was pleased to see the turnout at Settlers’ Park.
“This brings people to the village — I think it’s a great thing for Plainfield,” he said. “I think it’s phenomenal.”
Grateful for supportMorsovillo, who works year round with a team of volunteers to organize the race, expressed gratitude to Plainfield Mayor Mike Collins, the Plainfield police and fire departments and PEMA for supporting the race.
“Your support of our cause means so much to local military heroes,” she said.
Morsovillo said outpouring of support from sponsors and 5K runners means a lot to local veterans. “We often hear, ‘Wow, we didn’t think anyone cared,’” she said.
In a thank-you note to 5K sponsors, Morsovillo explained what the event means for local servicemen and women.
“Funds raised allow us to continue helping wounded warriors in local communities,” she said. “Whether helping pay with living expenses, medical bills, special need equipment, travel for medical treatment or similar needs and special specific requests, your contribution tells our courageous men and women that they are not forgotten.”
Check out photos from this year's race.