Helene Cody 5k and run inspires youth and the community

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Helene Cody (center), who helped recreate the Cranbury 5k.

The Helene Cody Cranbury 5k and one-mile fun run is returning to downtown Cranbury for its 11th year.

The race on Sept. 7 is in honor of Helene Cody who passed away in 2008 at the age of 16 from a brain aneurysm. Before Helene passed, she had a vision to revive the Cranbury Day 5k, which had ended in 2006.

That vision was part of a project for her Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest honor in the Girl Scouts. Even though Helene did not get a chance to finish her project of reviving the race, it was completed by a young boy, Greg Carroll, in her honor.

“The event has a community feeling and positive vibe. People are very happy,” said Linda Morris, president of the Helene Cody Foundation. “We are honoring the memory of my daughter Helene, who had planned to bring this to Cranbury.”

The race event will begin at 8:15 a.m. ,with the one-mile fun run and walk and features more than 600 participants and volunteers, according to foundation officials.

“This is the main fundraiser for the Helene Cody Foundation. We want to inspire youth to volunteer and better their communities and themselves,” she said. “We are keeping the spirit of Helene alive.”

The race has raised $200,000 over the years, which has helped the Helene Cody Foundation fund community service projects and scholarships for the organizations signature program – Helene Cody Scholars.

“We teach them leadership, communication skills and project planning,” Morris said.

According to officials, the program selects a group of central New Jersey high school students each year to receive mentoring and funding for a community service project that they design and carry out over the academic year.

After they complete the program they are selected as Helene Cody Scholars, which makes those students eligible for a $1,000 scholarship their senior year of high school.

For the first race in 2009, Morris said Helene had binders set up of what she had planned for the 5k.

“The first year, one of her classmates Greg Carroll had not known she was planning to revive the race and basically ran the first one. I think Helene would be so proud about the commitment from the community coming together,” she said. “Every year we try to make it a little better and I think she just would be really pleased.”

Morris explained that she hoped people who are participating or volunteering come away with the feeling that it is not what happens to you, but your response that makes an impact.

“I think our vision is to inspire. We have inspired many young people to go beyond their own, to achieve something bigger than themselves,” she said. “That means over coming the challenges. By working with young people they get to see how a young person can make an impact. A person can be any age and make a big impact.”

There will be a new addition to the 5k race this year. Five musical acts will be performing on the race course. The acts include the Princeton High School a cappella group – Lara Grant, Ellen Rene, Syrah Bot, who will sing the national anthem and Connor Stewart is going to play the drums.

According to foundation officials, if people register by Sept. 4 they receive a $5 discount on the registration fee and receive a t-shirt. People can register the day of the race on Sept. 7.

For more information about the race and to register online visit www.helenecody.com.