Kent County goes purple for substance abuse awareness in annual fun run

Kent County residents took off in a flurry of color from Wilmer Park on the morning of Sunday, Sept. 10 to raise awareness for local substance abuse.

Every year, the Chestertown Rotary Club and Kent County Sheriff’s Office collaborate to host their 5K Color Fun Run/Walk. All proceeds from the event benefit Kent Goes Purple, which, according to their website, is a substance abuse awareness and prevention initiative that engages local “community and youth” to “stand up against substance abuse.”

In-person registration for the run started at 7:30 a.m., with adults paying $30 to participate and those under 18 paying $10. For anyone who registered online ahead of time, adults paid $20 while those uner 18 signed up for free.

The event organizers provided a white t-shirt and color pack to the first 300 registrants, to be picked up at check-in the morning of the event.

According to Andy Meehan of the Chestertown Rotary Club, the Color Run is one of their signature events of the year — it’s also one of their most important.

“The key thing is raising awareness of the dangers of substance abuse,” Meehan said. “Our focus is primarily on children, school-aged kids, and trying to get them to have conversations with their family and be able to have enough self awareness that they’re in control, they’re wise, not doing drugs.”

Stands were set up around the starting line to promote various missions, including the Rotary Club, Sheriff’s Office, Midshore Behavioral Health, and Elks Drug Awareness Program. Each of the groups had educational materials about the overall topic and available prevention methods.

Kent County Sheriff Dennis Hickman also emphasized the informative nature of the run. He said that their target group is young attendees and that they hope to build a greater understanding of substances through their participation.

“One of the reasons I say it’s so important is because we’re a small community, but we see the overdoses and we see the struggles that people are having with opioids,” Hickman said. “During the course of the run, there’s a number of messages that are out that they can read during the way since we try to engage young people in fun events, but also be educational at the same time.”

The 5K course started off in Wilmer Park. Runners then took a right onto John Hanson Road, where they turned around and crossed the finish line back in the park. According to Meehan, a few of Washington College’s sports teams were statione

One of the runners, Anna Sissom, loved the “interactive” nature of the color packs. It was her first time doing the 5K.

Mike Wilson was another first-timer. He just moved to Chestertown in January, but runs “quite a bit” in other races.

“I did run just because it’s a good cause, it’s for substance awareness and all that,” Wilson said. “Usually any of the runs I do is for something that I feel is a good cause for and I think it’s great that the Kent County Sheriff’s Department puts it on. It was great.”

Hickman said that the awareness aspect among the community is the ideal takeaway from the run. Starting conversations on difficult topics, especially while young, is the best that they could hope for.

“Let’s say, for instance, you came out here and you ran with your friends, you’re going to have some other friends who asked you about it and they’re going to start the conversation,” Hickman said. “What’s that all about? What’s Kent Goes Purple?”

According to the flyer for the event, promotion for substance abuse awareness will continue throughout the remainder of September. The Rotary Club and Sheriff’s Office hope that the residents of Kent County will also take the initiative to “go purple.”

Photo Caption: The 5K started at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, followed with the Purple Jamboree celebration event.

Photo by Heather Fabritze

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