PFLAG’s annual 5K dashes for scholarship

Photo: Runners cross the finish line, thankful to finish the race and raise money for PFLAG’s education programming and scholarships; photos: Chuck Campbell

By Tim Smith

The annual Dayton Pride Festival has many activities planned this year: a bar crawl, a breakfast, and a parade are just a few of the scheduled events. One of the more eagerly anticipated activities is Running with Pride, taking place June 4 at Welcome Park. It’s a family friendly 5K run/walk sponsored by the Dayton chapter of Parents, Families, Friends and Allies United with LGBT People, or PFLAG. This is PFLAG’s second-annual 5K run, and the proceeds have been earmarked to benefit the organization’s education programs. According to board member Chuck Campbell, who is one of the organizers, the inaugural run last year exceeded their expectations.

“Last year we totaled 112 participants,” he says. “Our goal for the first year was 100, so we were happy with the turnout. This year we are ahead of schedule with registrations compared to this time last year, and our goal is at least 150. We were looking for a new fundraising idea. We had done an event similar to Dancing with the Stars, but that event had run its course. We wanted something completely different, something everyone might be interested in, and we wanted to include it during Pride Weekend in Dayton.”

He points out the importance of raising money for their education programs and using these tools to increase diversity, acceptance, and awareness.

“Our main goal is diversity and inclusion, and we promote that anywhere and everywhere we can,” he says. “Our objective with the fundraising is for our scholarship program. We award an average of $7,000 a year to deserving LGBT and ally students in the Miami Valley. Our additional educational programs include Rainbow Reading, where we donate books to schools which are chosen and approved by the district. These books are monitored and if not returned for whatever reason, we replace them. This program has received national attention and was recognized by the American Library Association at their annual convention in 2011. We also have a program called Safe Schools, where volunteers go into a school and talk with the educators about providing a safe environment for LGBT youth. We also have a Youth First program, which is a support group for youth aged 13 to 21. We educate them about risk behavior reduction, substance abuse and provide peer support in a safe, comfortable environment.”

The response to last year’s run was positive and also served as a learning experience.

“Overall, we received very positive feedback regarding our event, especially since it was our first attempt,” Campbell says. “People liked that it was a family friendly event, that it was during Pride Weekend, and that it was a physical activity. Everyone loved the participation medal they received at the completion of the walk/run, something that everyone who preregisters gets, and the goodie bag, which, thanks to our generous sponsors, is stuffed full of items. A couple of takeaways from last year were that we needed more water stations, and people would like to see some vendor booths. This year, we have done that.”

PFLAG has found a lot of support in the Miami Valley, which has increased their visibility and made it easier to implement their programs.

“Our sponsors are great,” Campbell says. “All of our sponsors from the previous fundraisers have followed us into this new venture, and we have secured many new sponsors as well. We offer different sponsorship levels, so there is a place for them to support us regardless of the amount they have available. This year we have a total of 21 different sponsors, and we are grateful for every one of them. We are the largest chapter in Ohio and the most active in the Northeast region based on the programs we offer. Most chapters only offer support, but we are able to offer the different educational programs. We have been recognized by the national chapter for our Rainbow Reading program, and it is used as a model for other chapters to incorporate into their communities.”

In addition to fundraising activities, the Dayton chapter maintains an active schedule throughout the year to keep the organization in the public eye.

“The highlight is our scholarship banquet where we provide a catered meal for our members and present our scholarship winners,” he says. “At this event, we also give our Elaine Fultz Community Award, which is presented to a straight ally who has made an impact in the Dayton area for equality. We are also involved with the Greater Dayton LGBT Center, and we partner with them on several events. We sponsor a movie every year at the Dayton LGBT Film Festival, typically a documentary, which stays with our theme of education. We also have a speaker’s bureau where we send presenters to local diversity events held by churches and workplaces.”

Campbell admits that even with the growing support for the Dayton chapter, diversity awareness and tolerance are never-ending tasks in the current national climate.

“This new administration has certainly put us on guard,” he says. “We had a nice momentum going when it came to equality, but now we feel like we have to be in defense mode. We are ready to educate and promote fairness as needed. We want all participants in the run to have a good time, to be with like-minded people, and to be proud of who you are. Pride is for everyone. It is time to accept who you are and to accept and respect others for who they are.”

Running with Pride takes place Sunday, June 4 at Welcome Park (behind Welcome Stadium), 1601 Edwin C. Moses Blvd. in Dayton. Registration is $25, and the event will start at 9 a.m. To register or for more information, please find PFLAG on Facebook or visit PFLAGDayton.org.

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Tim Smith
Tim Smith is an award-winning, bestselling author. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Smith at TimSmith@DaytonCityPaper.com

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