On this Sunday, June 9th, the ninth annual A Walk To Believe 5K Run & Fun Walk will take place outside of Highpoint.com Stadium in Piscataway, New Jersey. The event is in honor of Rutgers football legend Eric LeGrand, who suffered a spinal cord injury on October 16, 2010 that paralyzed him.
LeGrand has become an iconic figure in recent years, not just within the Rutgers community, but across America due to his positive attitude, his tireless fundraising and promoting awareness of spinal cord injuries, as well as his relentless effort to one day walk again. He has won the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance named after fellow Rutgers alum Jim Valvano, the Unsung Hero award by the New Jersey Hall of Fame, received the Warrior Award by the WWE, is the only player in Rutgers history to have his number retired, had the Eric LeGrand Believe Fund started in his honor. He has done countless media appearances and continues to be a key member of the radio broadcast team for Rutgers football games.
The event taking place this Sunday was started by Arlene Gonzalez, who is the President and founder of A Walk To Believe, a non-profit organization dedicated to spinal cord research and supporting Team LeGrand through the Reeve Foundation. I spoke to her this week to find out more about this event. Here are a few key details about Sunday’s event, as well as some additional information from Arlene.
When & Where:
Opening Ceremony on the field of HighPoint.com Stadium at 10 a.m.
The 5K Walk or Run begins outside of Rutgers Stadium Gate A parking lot at 10:30 a.m.
It is a certified 5K race that goes down Frelinghuysen Avenue and it loops around at the halfway point.
How To Register:
Online registration will close on Friday. You can register here.
You can also register the day of the event before race begins.
The registration fee is $25 for runners, $20 for walkers over the age of 12 and $10 for walkers under the age of 12. The fees go up the day of event. A t-shirt is guaranteed for those who register online and given to people that register the day of as supplies last.
Q&A With Arlene Gonzalez
AB: What is the goal for donations raised this year?
Arlene: “This year we are shooting for $152,000. Last year was 127,000 raised. Each year it goes up. There is also a tailgate party donated by a sponsor that people can attend after the race.”
AB: What role will Eric play on Sunday?
Arlene: “Eric will speak at the opening ceremonies on the field. He will also be present throughout the event, which is a great chance for people to meet and speak with him.”
AB: How many people do you expect to participate?
Arlene: “We have a lot of schools involved, including one from Pennsylvania that brings two buses worth of students. We just gained a few sponsors in the last few days as well. Right now, we have 354 people signed up for walkers and 185 runners. Usually on a nice day and cross fingers, Sunday looks perfect, we typically double our numbers.”
AB: What is the mission statement or ultimate goal of A Walk To Believe?
Arlene: ”We want to get rid of wheelchairs. We want to get everyone up and out of the wheelchairs.”
AB: Where is the money raised from this event donated to?
Arlene: “All of the money gets donated to Team LeGrand, the Rutgers Spinal Cord Injury Project through the W.M. Keck Center, and the Eric LeGrand Believe Fund.”
AB: How did you decide to start this organization?
Arlene: “I started the Walk To Believe nine years ago. It started out very simple and it’s really grown. I never knew Eric before, but I just knew that I have two sons and it’s easy to get hurt like this. It’s a common injury and I wanted to make a difference. Now Eric is like a son to me. Next year will be the 10th year and we will have a few things up our sleeve.”
AB: What is your overall message for everyone?
Arlene: “Come out and walk, run or roll and bring support. We have volunteers. There is a field for everyone. It’s definitely a family event.”
Thanks to Arlene for taking the time to speak with me. It’s people like her that make the world a better place! To support her and those that dedicate their time to this great cause for someone as courageous as Eric LeGrand is something I encourage as many people to do as possible this Sunday.
Note: To make a donation for this event, or even after the event is over throughout the year, click here.