By Devin Leith-Yessian
PLAINVILLE — Lines of volunteers cheered on runners in the Chip’s Family 5k Road Race Sunday morning, giving high fives and hugs as they crossed the finish line.
“There was little four year olds running with us,” said runner Karina Szczepanczyk, who feels the race, now in its eleventh year, has a greater community orientation to it that other 5Ks she runs. “It’s about having a good time.”
“To see all these people come and have a great time is wonderful,” said Maggie Johndrow, a board member of the Petit Family Foundation, which organized the race. “I think the Petit Family Foundation and all their sponsors have touched people.”
Dr. William Petit, who represents Plainville and New Britian as a state representative, said around 700 runners and walkers participated in the event, fueled by over 2,000 pancakes served out of the Chip’s Family Restaurant food truck.
“A lot of people come out because they remember Jennifer, Michaela and Hayley,” Petit said, noting that some of the women now running in the race had gone to school with Michaela. “It makes me feel good, it’s very heartening.”
He began the family foundation in 2008 to honor the memories of his wife and daughters Jennifer, Hayley and Michaela Petit, who were killed during a home invasion in Cheshire in 2007.
The race was split between the 5K, which brought out around 550 runners, and a shorter fitness walk with a shorter distance. Petit said he originally meant to just do the fitness walk, but when his 4-year-old son, William Petit, took off running down the 5K route he was forced to follow.
“I couldn’t get him to turn around,” he said.
The proceeds from the race support the Petit Family Foundation’s charitable giving, which has amounted to over $1 million in grants written over the past ten years. Petit said beneficiaries have included educational projects at the Beardsley Zoo, the Network Against Domestic Violence and the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center’s Injury Prevention Program.
“We really appreciate the Petit Family Foundation for all they do,” said Matt Fleury, president of the Connecticut Science Center. He said the foundation has supported the center’s efforts to advance women seeking careers in science.
“I think it’s a great way for everyone to come together,” said runner Kathleen Kalbian, who lives in Pennsylvania, but grew up in Cheshire. “You get an overwhelming sense of community.”
The race’s course is also good for runners seeking a fast time, she said, since the lack of hills lets runners keep their speed up.
“I like the small, local vibe (and) it’s really well organized,” said Emily D’Addario, the fastest-finishing female in the race. “I look forward to it every summer.”
Having run the race in the past, she enjoys the relaxed, local vibe it has and the charitable work the foundation does. “You know your money goes to a really good place,” she said.