5K race helps raise money for medical mission trip to Haiti


A group of runners pose for a photo after finishing the 4th annual Project Haiti 5k run on Saturday, August 24, 2013 in Gainesville, Fla. The 3.1 mile race, that wound through campus, raised money to provide medical support and supplies communities and individuals in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, August 24, 2013 at 7:07 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, August 24, 2013 at 7:07 p.m.

About $3,500 was raised Saturday morning for an annual medical mission trip to Haiti and the Dominican Republic conducted by students, faculty and staff of the University of Florida College of Medicine and UF Health Shands Hospital.

Project Haiti, a student-run nonprofit group, held its fourth annual 5K race on Saturday, which attracted more than 140 bright-eyed participants who each paid $15-$20 to register. The runners darted through the center of UF's campus, starting on Gale Lemerand Drive and then looping back around Mowry Road, Hull Road, Bledsoe Drive, Radio Road and Museum Road.

Daniel Turner, a 23-year-old second-year medical student and co-leader of Project Haiti 2014, said Saturday's race raised almost 10 percent of the group's ultimate goal of $40,000 for next year's trip.

"All the money we raise we put directly into either medical supplies that will go to the people in Haiti or into the Haitian economy, as in paying for our lodging or things in the country," he said. "So we don't pay American Airlines with money from this 5K."

Turner said the remainder of the cost will be raised through a letter campaign, smaller fundraisers focused in the College of Medicine and private donations from participants and partnerships.

Although Project Haiti has been active since 1996, the annual 5K has been the organization's largest fundraising effort for the past several years. The event consistently brings a host of community members together to support international health care.

Lewis Webber, a 23-year-old automotive worker who ran the race with his 2-year-old Yellow Labrador, Marlin, said he had just been on a mission trip to Haiti about a month ago and wanted to support a similar cause.

"The work that they do is really important, but also what's really important is the awareness they bring to the country," he said. "On the one hand, they are providing a service, but they're also kind of a good form of advertising for the need in Haiti."

The first-place finisher of the 5K was 44-year-old Joel Rich, a physician at North Florida Regional Medical Center, who completed the race in 17 minutes and 50 seconds.

Rich, an avid runner who has participated in the Project Haiti 5K for the past three years, said the organization fills an important need in the world.

"I think it's a good cause," he said. "I can clearly empathize with the need to care for people."

After the race, a drawing and award ceremony were held to award gift certificates to Gainesville Running and Walking, and Gainesville Health & Fitness Center.

Samantha Baer, a 27-year old second-year medical student and co-leader of Project Haiti 2014, said she was motivated to continue supporting the program on her first trip last year, when she helped distribute fluoride varnish to children in an orphanage.

"It was really wonderful to see that we're not just there for the week, but that we can do things in that time that can really increase our impact and can be impactful in the long term," she said. "So that's something we're definitely going to bring back with us — even more varnish so we can do all the kids that we see in clinic — and then try to increase even more of what we're doing in terms of public health outreach."

Contributions to Project Haiti can be made at projecthaiti.med.ufl.edu.

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