On the morning of Sept. 21, the overcast skies and rainy weather made way for bright sun and colorful clouds — literally. At the first annual Phoebe’s Phriends Colorflash 5K at Sherwood Island State Park, participants were doused with vividly colored powdered paint as they ran, getting in some exercise and supporting an important cause to boot.
The run was organized by Phoebe’s Phriends, which calls itself “a 501(c)(3) corporation with a mission to find a cure for Pediatric Cancer.” The organization was started by friends and family of Westport teen Phoebe Spear, who was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in middle school and secondary leukemia a few years later.
All of the money raised from the 5K, which is fittingly being held during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, will go to two doctors from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, who specialize in osteosarcoma and childhood leukemia.
Spear said that while it was her idea to organize the run, it was her mother Ellen Spear who made it happen.
“We were sitting around the table brainstorming fundraising ideas, and Phoebe said: ‘How about a color run?’” Ellen Spear said.
Spear said that while she had never been to a color run before, she knew many of her peers were interested in participating in one.
“It’s important to us that [Phoebe’s Phriends] events attract people not just because they want to support us but because they really want to participate,” Phoebe Spear said.
Her mother agreed, adding that the idea of a color run was appealing mostly because it was so accessible to people of all ages, especially at the manageable registration price of 25 dollars per runner.
If the turnout on race day was any indication, the Spears were headed down the right path, so to speak. There was such a high turnout, they had to be divided into five groups with staggered start times.
“The big Minuteman race gets about 1000 participants each year, so we were expecting around 300 people and hoping for 500 max,” Ellen Spear said. “There are actually over 1000 people here today.”
At the start line, participants of all ages were united in their Colorflash tee shirts, plastic sunglasses, and evident enthusiasm.
Participants say that the run has really brought the community, and even their families, closer together.
“My daughter Sabrina saw a sign for the run in a local store and suggested we do it as a family,” Elin Cohen of Fairfield said.
The atmosphere of the event was joyful and supportive, with volunteers handing out water bottles to runners at the finish line and crowds of people cheering from the sidelines.
“I liked sprinting at the end and running with my friends,” Claire Smith ‘15 said.
While the run was a big hit among participants, it was even more meaningful to the Spear family.
“[My favorite part was] standing on top of the table and seeing that massive crowd of people all here to support our journey — it brought me to tears. I actually cried when I was speaking,” Phoebe Spear said. “I’m so grateful for everyone’s support and I can’t wait to do this again next year.”
With over 1000 energetic runners, 200 spirited volunteers, five tantalizing food trucks, and five colorful kilometers, this year’s Colorflash is surely the first of many successful runs to come.