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And the winner is: Garfield Ridge

First-ever Stars

& Stripes 5K hailed as a success

Smashing all expectations, the inaugural Garfield Ridge

Stars & Stripes 5K Run is a win-win for the neighborhood, as well as the

surrounding Southwest Side, organizers said after the race last Saturday

morning.

About 600 runners and walkers–ages 6 to 70–turned out at

Wentworth Park. Participants were mostly from the Southwest Side, but also from

all across the Chicago area. The event attracted out-of-state runners from

Virginia, Massachusetts and other places. There were even runners

from Sweden, Britain and Australia, according to West Lawn resident Juan

Ortega, the official race coordinator.

“When we first started planning the race, we went

out and got a feel for the neighborhood and where we would be running,” Ortega

said. “I knew I wanted 300 runners minimum, but in my heart of hearts I was

hoping for 500 to 600,” Ortega said.

“For a first time event, you usually don’t come up with

400 to 500 runners,” he added. “To come up with this number of people is awesome.

It’s a great thing, a win-win for the neighborhood.”

The entire event was a product of Tri-Builders, a non-profit

youth triathlon team that since its founding in 2013 has worked to encourage

boys and girls to embrace physical fitness, said Ortega, a founder of the

group, whose daughtersÑage 15 and 13Ñare members in the group.

The run specifically honored first responders.

“It’s a great event to honor men and women who wear the uniform. It’s an

opportunity for the community to come out for those who serve and protect,

whether it’s city or country,” Ortega said.

Proceeds from race will be split between The Wounded Warrior

Project, The 100 Club of Chicago and The Chicago Police Memorial Foundation.

Those who could not attend the event are invited to visit

runsignup.com/Race/IL/Chicago/StarsandStripesRun and click on the “donate”

button.

A key supporter of the event was the Garfield Ridge

Neighborhood Watch.

“This was more than a raceÑit was basically a community

challenge,” said Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch President Al Cacciottolo.

“We wanted as many people as possible to run in the raceÑbut for those of us

who are not in shape to run a race like that, we wanted everyone to step away

from the TV, the computer, whatever, and go out to the curbs of the course and

cheer on the runners, and get outside and meet each other. A secure

neighborhood starts with good people making connections, of getting to know

each other and look out for each other.”

On Saturday afternoon, Cacciottolo described the race as

“a success on every level.”

A number of the runners were police officers, firefighters

and active-duty military.

“That’s one reason this was held on July 1,” Cacciottolo

added.”It’s just before the Fourth of July, and it follows the annual

Patriot’s Day Parade (Friday, June 30 this year).In a way, it’s an

opportunity for our community to step outside and thank those men and women who

protect us.”

He said the hope is to “make this into a big event as years

go by. There are runs like this in other Chicago neighborhoods, like Beverly

and LakeviewÑas well as a number of suburbs. Why not here in Garfield Ridge?

We’re every bit as good as they are.”

(Editor’s Note: More news coverage and photos in the print

edition of the Southwest News-Herald, available on local newsstands. Or better

yet, call 708-496-0265 during weekday business hours and order convenient home

delivery for about 50 cents a week.)

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