CHESHIRE – As the first guitar riff of “Baba O’Riley” thundered into the cold, 727 runners leapt out of Norton Elementary School for a 5k to raise money for local adults with learning disabilities.
“During the race there was a lot of people supporting each other and encouraging each other, so it was really, really a beautiful race,” said Alex Miner, of Milford, who ran in the Hot Coco 5k, now in its ninth year, on Saturday.
Miner said he joined the race to run with friends and show support for Abilities Without Boundaries, a Cheshire-based charity providing employment training, day programs and other services for local disabled adults. The charity organized the race to raise money to help the 65 individuals in its programs.
“In the beginning, everyone was lined up together and everyone was all smiles,” Miner said, noting that there was none of the jostling or competition of some races. As runners took off and returned to the finish line, supporters cheered, including some Abilities Without Boundaries clients.
Racers ran a loop through the local roads and the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail, where organizer Lloyd Saberski had placed speakers so participants could enjoy music throughout the race. As they neared the finish line, the Guy Malone Band, which played live at the school, came into earshot.
“We’ve got some serious runners out here,” Saberski said, with the first runners finishing the 3.1 mile lap in around 16 minutes.
After the last racers finished, the fastest runners were given awards, based on age and gender.
Once the awards were given out, the run’s namesake portion began – the post-race hot cocoa party. A play on words from the charity’s original name, Cheshire Occupational and Career Opportunities.
While the approximately $30,000 Abilities Without Boundaries raised will go towards buying a handicap-accessible van to bring clients to their jobs, Saberski said the most important goal was to raise awareness for the disabled and those who care for them.
“We like to say people with disabilities have amazing abilities. And many of them can work and just need some job coaching or help to get back and forth,” said Chris Loynd, a spokesperson for Abilities Without Boundaries.
Loynd used the Cheshire company Creative Dimensions as an example, noting the business employes Abilities Without Boundaries clients in its warehouse and office. Creative Dimensions was one of 37 sponsors for the event.
“The biggest cause honestly was community and connection, which was really, really special,” said Miner. “Anytime that a community can come together, big or small, it’s just so powerful.”