Racing to Beat the Odds at the 37th Annual Fifth Third River Bank Run

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (May 10, 2014) – By hand-cycle, wheelchair, and foot, organizers said about 20,000 racers participated in the 37th Annual Fifth Third River Bank Run. Many at the starting line told Fox 17 News that they have overcome personal battles to make it to the race.

“Running has truly been like my therapy, it’s been probably one of the best things for me,” said Adele Garcia, U.S. Army Veteran who is training for a 100-mile ultra-marathon.

A roadside bomb struck Garcia when she was deployed in Iraq, and shrapnel hit part of her head. Yet Garcia said it wasn’t until she came home that she struggled with transitioning back into every-day life.

“Learning how to just deal with the stress of combat and be back in a civilian world. For me, over time, running was really the only thing that I could channel a lot of my frustration and anxiety so that I could function normally during the day and not have that stigma of PTSD,” shared Garcia.

Then many groups ran for others. A team of about 215 runners called, “Running for Jenny,” honored domestic violence victims. They run in memory of Jenny Heeren, a young Grand Rapids mother who was killed by her abusive husband in 2011.

“Women who leave an abusive situation are extremely brave, extremely courageous; they face a lot of danger, they face a lot of uncertainty, a lot of unknowns,” said Susan Halteman, development director at Safe Haven Ministries.

“Running for Jenny” said domestic violence is a prevalent issue that affects one in three women nationally. In the past three years, the team raised $74,000 for Safe Haven Ministries’ shelter and support services for women and children who are victims of domestic violence.

Other teams like a group of 54 people from Sun Title Agency raised more than $4,000 for the Children’s Assessment Center (CAC). Team members said the CAC helped 15,000 Kent County children fight sexual abuse this year alone.

“The Children’s Assessment Center is an organization that helps children who have been victims of sexual abuse. We work with those children and we also have a sexual abuse prevention program,” said Lawrence Duthler, co-owner of Sun Title Agency, who serves on the Board of Directors for the Children’s Assessment Center.

Event planners said this event is a year in the making, while racers said crossing the finishing line is an accomplishment that lasts a lifetime.

For more information on local resources for issues of domestic violence, see the websites for Safe Haven Ministries, the YWCA, and the Center for Women in Transition.

Individuals can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-SAFE (7233).

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