December race benefits children fighting cancer
by Mark Thomas, Senior Community Relations Coordinator
Walkers and runners are invited to get decked out for Christmas and participate in an evening race that supports children with cancer and their families.
The Deck the Heels 5K Night Run will take to the streets of downtown Altavista Saturday, Dec. 9, starting at 5 p.m. This is the sixth annual event to benefit the Claire Parker Foundation, and Southside Electric Cooperative is one of the sponsors.
“It is a lot of fun for everybody,” says Karly Hagwood, the foundation’s director of communications.
She says participants will dress up in “pretty much anything that is related to Christmas.” There will be trees, reindeer and Santa Clauses. Participants will wear battery-powered lights and ugly Christmas sweaters. Pets in their holiday attire are welcome as are children in strollers.
Santa treks down from the North Pole to listen to children’s Christmas wishes. A post-race party will have awards, pizza, s’mores, hot chocolate, coffee, games and more.
While the race is a joyous time, it has a serious side. All proceeds support programs provided by the Claire Parker Foundation, a ministry started in 2015 by Jordan and Connie Parker, whose daughter, Claire, died of leukemia at 21 months old.
Working mostly through children’s hospitals, including the University of Virginia, Duke, University of North Carolina, Carilion and others in Virginia and North Carolina, the foundation provides care boxes and bags to the children with cancer and their families. Starting with the initial diagnosis, boxes include essential and comfort items. One helps the child celebrate a birthday while in the hospital; another recognizes when treatment ends. Still another that comes in three parts helps console parents after losing a child to cancer. The foundation also provides a grief program for mothers and snacks for a traveling cart at two cancer centers.
Hagwood says the foundation aims to provide quality-of-life support for families.
“We want to be there for the families as they are going through the worst time in their lives,” she says. The organization has served more than 3,000 families.
Expanding to meet the need for help, the foundation now buys, renovates and sells houses in Altavista with proceeds going to children and families. The Claire House project will finish its fourth house by year’s end or early in 2024.
More information about the group can be found at claireparkerfoundation.org.
To participate in the Deck the Heels 5K, visit the website or runsignup.com and search for the race name. Entry fee is $30 until Dec. 8. Participants can register up to race time.