5K run benefits mental health awareness

Fifty-seven participants braved chilly weather at East Potomac Park Saturday morning to take part in a five-kilometer, student-organized run to promote mental health and suicide awareness.

Run 5-4 Life, a new student group started by sophomores Sarah Brown and Lauren Furmanek, set up the event, which also gave more than 100 supporters the opportunity to walk a mile for the cause. The more than $2,000 raised will go to the Jed Foundation, a charity group committed to reducing the young adult suicide rate and providing mental health support.

Students and other runners and walkers boarded yellow school buses at 7 a.m. in front of the Marvin Center to head off to the morning’s activities.

“We are so happy with the turnout,” said Brown, who has been organizing the event with Furmanek for more than three months. Brown is a Hatchet production assistant.

Brown said the genesis of the idea behind the event came from a similar 5K race she and Furmanek ran in the fall. After helping to support suicide awareness, she said the girls wanted to bring the same experience to GW for such an “appropriate cause.”

“It was a lot more work than we expected,” said Brown, who added that her group had to apply as a student organization, find sponsors for the event and obtain a park permit and complete a number of other tasks to set up the run. She added that the work was manageable and students should not be afraid to organize their own events.

Furmanek said she was a little disappointed that she was unable to run because she was so busy coordinating the race. She added that the event’s success relied on help from the GW cross country team and EMeRG.

“The reaction we are getting from GW community is strong,” said Furmanek, after handing out a $50 gift certificate to Au Pied Bistro in Georgetown to the first-place winner, law student Caleb Bendix.

After the race, each running and walking contestant was given a T-shirt with Run 5-4 Life’s logo and a list of sponsors.

The group secured over 25 sponsors for the event, including The Hatchet, GW Class Council, GW-Suicide Prevention Action Network, the University Counseling Center and eight different Greek-letter organizations, many of whom wore their letters to the race.

“My daughter’s organizational skills are great,” said Jim Furmanek, Lauren Furmaek’s father, as he cooled down after running the race with his other daughter. Lauren Furmanek’s family flew into Chicago to support her; her mother handed out T-shirts to the participants.

When asked if it was difficult to make the long trip, her father said, “Nothing is too far to see my daughter.”

“I am really proud and happy that all my sisters came in full force today,” said sophomore Marni Hahn, a member of Alpha Phi sorority and close friend of both the founders. “It really shows their dedication.”

The event also attracted Molly Wallace, a representative from the Jed Foundation who traveled from New York City to witness the event.

Run 5-4 Life is one of several student groups devoted to suicide and mental health that has been popping up on campus over the past three years. Such groups include GW-SPAN, Active Minds and Students 2 Students, a peer counseling group. Since February, 2004, three GW students have taken their own lives.

Sophomore Claire Whitlinger, a member of GW-SPAN, said she is glad that the run attracted the attention of the GW community.

“The sheer numbers and enthusiasm today show how much GW students care about this issue,” said Whitlinger, who toted the groups’ banner during the one-mile walk event. “We are looking forward to engaging even more students through our Suicide Awareness Week next month.”

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