By Kira Golden
On the brisk morning of December 27th, about five hundred runners gathered at the Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert to participate in the Galen 5K. This marks the second annual run of this marathon, which was thought up and sponsored by Helene Galen. “This museum isn’t just a museum, it’s a community spot,” Galen said. Arlene Armick, Director of the Palm Desert Museum, and the woman responsible for putting together this event, echoed Galen’s sentiment. “We really wanted to do something that would welcome the community and drive attention to a larger portion of what we do here, which is a lot of educational and community programs. We thought, what better way to do that than with a 5K? And what better timing than for a New Year’s Resolution?” Armick went on to say that the 5K is a fundraiser, but that all the funds go to support the museum’s free educational and community programs.
The event was a full-blown affair, complete with healthy food and beverage stands, a warm-up area with guided exercises, T-shirts for the participants, as well as art activities in the Sculpture Garden to follow the conclusion of the race. “We increased it a little more from the community perspective by going to all of the schools in Desert Sands; we offered sponsorships… and just by going to all of the schools, we had a lot of kids sign up.”
Hoover Elementary had thirteen kids sponsored by the committee to enter the race. Patricia Schoenfeld, the head of Hoover’s Running Club, now in its third year, also joined in the marathon. “We’ve run 5,500 miles so far this year. Our goal is 12,500 miles to make it halfway around the world.” Schoenfeld went on to explain that the entire school—including the principle—participates in the club. They get credit for running before school, during recess, and during P.E. The students have chains to wear, and they receive charms to commemorate every five miles they run, and also monthly charms based on reaching monthly goals. “It’s just healthy,” she said of the club. “Our behavioral problems are down. The first year we had about five kids pass the physical fitness in fifth grade, and last year we had forty-two kids pass.” Her long-term goal is to make it a district-wide program. “There are other schools asking about our club, but no one is doing it the way I do it. We do it every day, and it’s a lot of work.” She is also hoping to draw awareness to the program to inspire funding for rewards and for participation in events like this 5K.
She was not the only runner trying to raise awareness for a cause at this event. Peggy Abundiz, who is also known as the Running Bride, participates in marathons nationwide—and she runs in full firefighter’s regalia. She does this—despite two knee surgeries—to support the Code 3 for a Cure Foundation, which raises awareness and gives financial aid to firefighters with cancer. Her husband, Lorenzo Abundiz, served 27 years as a firefighter, and as a result has had three separate battles with cancer. “It’s sad because we all assume they get all the support they need when they fight cancer, and that’s not always the case. That’s why we started this foundation. The toxins they’re exposed to are really what cause their cancer—they’re much more highly susceptible than the average citizen.” She explained that often the cancer doesn’t manifest until years after a firefighter retires, and it is often hard to prove to a departmental committee that the cancer was job-related. Not to mention the large percentage of volunteer firefighters who have no department whatsoever to fall back on if they are diagnosed with cancer for their heroics. Peggy and Lorenzo have made it their mission to help as many suffering firefighters as possible. For more information, visit their website at www.code3foracure.org.
The Galen New Year’s Resolution 5K had a huge turnout this year, from dogs, to children, to spry elderly folk, and whether they ran for a cause or simply to accomplish an important personal goal, the overall attitude was one of a community working together to achieve something greater—making it safe to say that it was a resounding success!