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The Daily Tar Heel

Hundreds Participate In Freedom 5K Benefit

The Freedom 5K Tribute to NYC Heroes raised more than $3,000 for the Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund, a national campaign to aid the educational needs of children of the attack victims.

Organizers said holding the race on Veterans Day, which also was the two- month anniversary of the attacks, emphasized the event's patriotic aspects. As a physical reminder of the race's purpose, each runner wore a paper badge that had the name of a New York rescue worker who died as a result of the attacks.

"We didn't want this to be a really competitive race, but more of a memorial," said Elyse Kopecky, who organized the event with Kelly Ingraham. "That's why we wanted to use the badges."

The Emerging Leaders Program, a division of Carolina Leadership Development, sponsored the event.

ELP requires participants to fulfill a service requirement, and Kopecky said she thought of filling this by organizing a 5K.

"Right after Sept. 11, I was talking with friends about what happened, and we really felt like there was nothing we could do to help," she said. "I used to run a lot of 5Ks, and I knew organizing one could get a lot of people involved."

Kopecky's idea drew 320 preregistrants as well as additional runners on race day. Every runner paid a $10 fee.

Freshman Jenni Norman said running in the race made her feel like she could do something to help the New York City victims. "I read about all the children without mothers and fathers, and I wanted to show my support," she said.

Men's basketball coach Matt Doherty and his wife also decided to show their support for the victims of the attacks. The couple pushed strollers carrying their two children during the race.

"I'm glad to get involved in the UNC community outside of basketball and do something positive with my family," Doherty said.

In the end, Ben Hovis, a cross-country coach from Charlotte, walked away with the men's first prize, a gift certificate to Top of the Hill. But the top women's finishers, a group of UNC cross-country runners who held hands as they crossed the finish line, gave their gift certificate to Kate Thomson, who finished second.

Volunteer Irene Birbeck, a sophomore from Cary, said the event seemed to touch participants personally. "When we pinned the name (of a victim) on one girl, she actually cried," Birbeck said. "She didn't realize how personal it was and what a difference we were actually making."

The University Editor can be reached at udesk@unc.edu.

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