Heavy rain did not dampen the enthusiasm of nearly 400 runners, walkers, and supporters who came out for the first Friendship Circle of Atlanta 5K, 1-mile walk and festival at Brook Run Park on Sunday, Dec. 10.
Held during Chanukah, the event raised close to $62,000 for the Friendship Circle of Atlanta, an organization focused on acceptance, inclusion, and friendship for people with special needs and their families. The non-profit hopes to reach the $100,000 goal by year-end through community donations.
Runners, rollers, and walkers line up for the race.
The theme for this year’s inaugural event was “As You Are,” a moniker co-founders Rabbi Shlomo and Chanky Freedman said “captures the essence of inclusion, where everyone belongs just as they are, regardless of their abilities.”
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The fun-filled day was an extension of the larger mission of Friendship Circle in support of unity, acceptance, and friendship between members of Atlanta’s Jewish community and individuals with special needs and their families.
“We were just blown away by the excitement and turnout by all the people who participated and were undeterred by the rain. There was so much to celebrate,” said Chanky. “With this yearly event, our aim is to bring the wider Atlanta Jewish community together with our participants and help expand our work through fundraising and involvement,” she added.
Michelle Frank placed first in the 5K, followed by Suzanne Bressler and Mendel Adelman. The teen winner was Nuriel Shimoni Stoil. Following the run and walk, the Friendship festival offered a wide array of activities for children and adults, including rides on a mechanical bull, face painting, a petting zoo, air hockey and foosball tables, inflatable ax throwing, Chanukah crafts, a roaming dreidel, and food from Keith’s Corner BBQ food truck.
5K first-place winner Michelle Frank
The event was organized by Sara Varon, who was credited by the Freedman’s with “expertly synching every single detail.” From the starting line ceremony to the close of the festival, the day went off without a hitch, according to those in attendance.
Varon said, “We planned this event for months, and every detail was considered. But at the end of the day, the weather was the one thing we couldn’t plan. Our event was going to happen, rain or shine. There’s no way to move a 5K indoors. Everyone who came to support Friendship Circle showed the unconditional love they have for the organization and their fellow Jews,” she said.
5K teen winner Nuriel Shimoni Stoil
And runner Mendy Kessler echoed Varon’s sentiments. “I felt the incredible energy of everyone there despite the rain — or maybe because of it,” he said.
Corporate sponsors for the event included Congregation Beth Tefillah, Classic Tents & Events, Diversifood Associates, Inc., and Northside Hospital.
To volunteer, learn more or contribute to Friendship Circle of Atlanta, please visit www.fcatlanta.org.