Combining the exhilaration of running with the satisfaction of giving back to the community proved to be a winning combination for three Phoenix teens. Brophy Prep students Jackson Moran and Charlie Fallon, along with Jamie Stelnik of Xavier Prep, brainstormed a creative way to do both during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The three students, all members of their school’s track and field teams organized a virtual 5K/one-mile run between May 15 and June 30. With a suggested $15 donation to participate, the teens raised $6,000, which was donated to St. Vincent de Paul’s COVID Relief Fund.

“Racing is a passion of mine,” Jackson said, “and it felt really good to help out people who need it most. We had always wanted to put on a race at some point, but the community’s needs arising from COVID-19 had us create it when we did. About one hundred people raced, but way more donated.”

It wasn’t just runners who laced up. The race was open to walkers, bikers and skaters, but only runners won prizes, such as $50 gift cards for Sole Sports or Tortoise and Hare Sports. Raffle prizes included brownies from Fairytale Brownies and goodies from Crumbl Cookies in Arcadia.

With social distancing as the new normal, a live race with cheering friends and family wasn’t possible. Instead, participants walked and ran at their location of choice: racetracks, parks, streets and even treadmills. Times were sent to the organizers through GPS trackers, apps or pictures from a watch. “It was basically an honor system, and if people proved their time, it was enough for us,” Jackson said. “People could be in the event without donating, but everyone did.”

The teens wanted to enroll as many people as possible so they went on a media blitz, using word of mouth, newsletters and emails. They also advertised the event to friends, classmates, teachers, parents and parents’ colleagues. The teens were also interviewed on AZ Family’s Good Morning Arizona segment and FOX10 morning news.

 Choosing St. Vincent de Paul as a partner turned out to be a home run for the community. Every $15 the race raised will feed a family of five. Also, funds will be used to pay utility bills and provide much-needed hygiene kits, rent relief and medicine. The philanthropic benefits of the race have extended to the business community as well. Under normal circumstances, St. Vincent de Paul makes all of their food. With that now impossible, all the food provided for families comes from local restaurants and businesses.

“I think we have all grown closer from this opportunity,” Jamie said. “I would never take back what I’ve been able to learn. I chose to help people when I could have done nothing. Combining my passion for running and helping people has turned this into a great thing. It’s been an amazing experience. If COVID-19 continues into next year, we may do it again.”

For more: stvincentdepaul.net/COVID19relief