Running For Recess 5K a Successful First Step for Student’s Nonprofit

May 23, 2018
Photo by: David Biggy The start of the inaugural Running For Recess 5K, the proceeds from which go toward funding the construction of schools in Africa

When Lauren Caldera and Sue Kelly walked across the finish line on Shore Avenue in Ship Bottom just under an hour after the Running For Recess 5K had started, Henry Sodt not only had the privilege of handing out the medals but also breathed a sigh of relief.

“I’m exhausted,” he said as the competitors ran or walked the course in the inaugural fundraising event for the nonprofit Raising Hands and Hopes that he started up late last year. “I’m glad it’s over and out of the way, but I’m very happy with how things turned out for our first attempt at something like this. So far, it’s been a rewarding experience.”

As part of a partnership with internationally known Pencils of Promise, the primary function of Raising Hands and Hopes is to advocate for quality education for children in third-world nations as well as raise money to make that possible, mainly through Pencils of Promise’s school-build program. Proceeds from the Running For Recess 5K are the first funds toward a goal of $50,000 to build two schools in Ghana, Africa.

“When Henry said he wanted to start a nonprofit to help build schools in Africa, I wasn’t surprised at all,” said his mother, Christine, who manned the registration table. “He’s always looking to help somebody, and he’s found his purpose. He’s very passionate about it.”

Of course, the road toward sustaining a successful nonprofit organization often isn’t smoothly paved. The number of hours put in to make a 5K race go – never mind future fundraising events, which are coming, Henry said – numbered in the hundreds. And for that effort, Raising Hands and Hopes now has some $2,600 in the pot.

“I was worried about it because with two months left, we only had 19 people registered,” said the 17-year-old junior at Southern Regional High School. “But we ended up with about 75,and that’s an awesome start. It’s definitely been a learning process. I already know five things we can do to improve this event for next year.”

Henry’s sister, Emily, a 20-year-old student at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, had been helping out as much as she could during the past few months.

“I’ve been making a lot of signs and helping him stay calm,” she said with a laugh after she finished the race in 26th place with a time of 30:44.3. “The whole push leading up to today has been crazy, but I’m so excited for Henry. I’ve learned a lot about him these past few months. He’s very determined, and he inspires me.”

Emily Sodt’s friend Britanni Tompkins, a rugby player at Penn State University who finished 13th overall with a time of 25:29, said she wasn’t surprised by Henry’s passion for helping children in third-world countries.

“What he’s started is a really nice way to help,” she said. “I’m good friends with the whole family, and Henry’s just a very nice person who would do anything for anybody.”

Interestingly, the guy who was winning the race at the final turn before the finish line, Patrick Pietrefesa, did something nice for the guy behind him, Michael Buhmann. Pietrefesa stopped for a few seconds and waited for Buhmann to catch up to him, then allowed Buhmann – for some unknown reason – to finish ahead of him as they neared the line. Buhmann’s official time was 22:42, while Pietrefesa clocked a 22:42.1.

Barnegat’s John Michael Purdon finished third overall in 22:58.5, followed by Maria DeBruin of Manasquan in fourth with a time of 23:16.8, and Chad Scanlon in fifth in 23:40.3.

Afterward, Henry’s father, Robert, announced the medalists as his son gave them out.

“I wouldn’t be where I am right now without the support of my family,” Henry said. “They’ve all contributed something different, and it’s been really awesome to have all of them behind me on this. Doing an event like this doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a chore. But it’s so worth it.”

As for what he has planned next, Henry wouldn’t say because “I don’t want to ruin the surprise.”

“Let’s just say there’s more coming, and I’m hoping many more people get involved and help the cause,” he said. “Education is important, and it’s a big deal to build schools in third-world countries where kids can’t read or write. What we did today proves we’re serious, and we’re doing something about that issue.”

— David Biggy

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