What was envisioned to maybe attract 50 people saw more than 200 participants run last year to support Semiahmoo House Society in South Surrey.
Through word of mouth - and approaching every business in White Rock and South Surrey to display their event posters - organizers Michelle Shalinsky and Teresita Aristizabal spread the word to raise money for the centre, which helps people with developmental disabilities and acquired brain injuries.
This year's Miles for Smiles happens Sunday. It is a 5km walk/run that will start at 10 a.m. and be followed by live music, featuring local musicians Acoustic Groove and Joe Given. While enjoying the music at South Surrey Athletic Park, participants and spectators can partake in the Greek barbecue and try their luck to win in the raffle.
With the unexpected success of last year's inaugural run, which raised more than $5,000 for the house's recreation and leisure programs, Shalinsky said she is excited for Sunday's event.
"Teresita and I are just two students who last year had no idea what we were doing - how to get the licences, who to talk to or how to make it happen, but through word of mouth and friends of the Semiahmoo House, we got so many more people out than we expected," Shalinksky recounted enthusiastically. "And now with increased publicity and awareness we can raise even more money for an organization that does such wonderful things."
Shalinsky was first introduced to Semiahmoo House when she was volunteering for the Special Olympians as a student at Elgin Park Secondary. It was through this exposure that she fell in love with volunteering and decided to make therapeutic recreation her career, which she is currently studying at Douglas College.
Together with Aristizabal, a Southridge School grad studying at UBC who first volunteered for Semiahmoo House in high school, Shalinsky decided to raise money for recreation and leisure at the organization, because these programs do not receive government funding. Summer camps, after-school programs and trips to places like Whistler and Camp Elphinstone on the Sunshine Coast are funded by the recreation and leisure program.
"We totally fell in love with the society, and it kind of just became our second home," Shalinsky said. "We saw what an influence these programs made on the kids' development, social skills and friendships."
For those who can't take part in a run, Shalinsky urges everyone to still come out on Sunday, support the cause, and have a good time.
"We're on Facebook and other social media, and are asking everyone we know to tell everyone they know to take part."
HOW TO REGISTER
To run or walk, registration is $30, which includes a T-shirt, cinch pack and water bottles (children under 15 pay $15). Participants may register through the Running Room website, in person at the Running Room, or on the day of.
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