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5K race benefits ‘Joys, Hopes and Dreams’ children’s program, camp

They came, they ran and they raised money for HomeFront’s annual 5K race and 1-mile run/walk to benefit the nonprofit organization’s “Joys, Hopes and Dreams” children’s program and the Camp Mercer summer camp.

More than 800 runners and walkers ranging in age from 7 to 71 took part in the 5K race and 1-mile run/walk event on the campus of the Educational Testing Service on Rosedale Road in Lawrence Township on June 10

Of the 365 runners who participated in the 5-kilometer race, the quickest runner was an 18-year-old boy who finished in just over 17 minutes. The last person to cross the finish line was a 45-year-old woman who took just over an hour to run the course.

This was the 10th annual race sponsored by HomeFront, which helps the homeless and working poor. The nonprofit organization is based in Lawrence Township.

What was different about the event this year is that about a dozen local rock bands and a capella groups provided music and entertainment to the runners and walkers on the route, said event co-chair Suki Wasserman.

“We had a committee and we knew we wanted to come up with a ‘big idea’ to draw a lot of people. We wanted to grow the event significantly in size,” Wasserman said. “We started with the idea it would be great to have teens from the local area come with their high school bands or their own music groups to perform. From that idea, the rock and roll theme evolved. We decided to invite adult bands, too.”

Among the adult bands that performed was the Electric Stingrays, one of whose members, Bryan McKenna, teaches fourth grade at the Littlebrook Elementary School in Princeton, Wasserman said. Some of the school’s pupils turned out to run and to see McKenna play, she said.

Homework of Caffeine, which is made up of students and adults from the Princeton Day School, including one of the school’s music teachers, Jesse Neuman, also took part, Wasserman said.

The other bands included School of Rock, West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North’s steel drum band, BoxORox, and Fleetwood Mac & Cheese, whose members include four John Witherspoon Middle School seventh-graders in Princeton.

Wasserman said an “adorable” pre-teen brothers and sister act, Milz Stone, also played, along with Planet Peacock. All four of Princeton High School’s a capella music groups performed, too, she said.

A runner who participated in the race said one of the best things about the fundraising event is that it will help homeless children go to camp this summer.

“That’s the true trophy of this race,” said Mary Jo Kahn, who teaches at Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart in Princeton.

HomeFront’s Camp Mercer provides day camp for homeless and at-risk children, Wasserman said. The eight-week camp provides arts and crafts, swimming, dance, sports, drama and field trips, as well as reading and academics. Last year, 129 children attended the camp.

The “Joys, Hopes and Dreams” program occurs during the school year and offers tutoring, field trips, social programs and fitness programs, Wasserman said. More than 400 children in Mercer County participate in the program.

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