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BHS students organize 5K to benefit New Beginnings

Belmont High School juniors MCKenzie Phelps and Emma Kotusky and health instructor Laura Lavallee (center) are asking people to “Put violence on pause and run for a cause” during a 5K run/walk they have organized. The May 5 fundraiser will benefit domestic violence and other programs at New Beginnings in Laconia, and will take place on a sanctioned trail, which begins and ends at Gilford Community Church. (Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
April 11, 2012
BELMONT — Belmont High School juniors MCKenzie Phelps and Emma Kotusky found themselves with free time in their academic schedule this semester, and opted to do an independent study for a little extra credit. Teaming up with the BHS health teacher, Laura Lavallee, that extra time in their day is now translating into community service, as the three are organizing a 5K run/walk to benefit New Beginnings in Laconia.

"Ms. Lavallee had an idea that this was something she wanted to do for a long time, but was too busy, so we took it upon ourselves to organize it," said Phelps.

The girls said they both felt New Beginnings was a worthy organization that they wanted to support. A nonprofit agency, the team of professionals and volunteers provides counseling, education and support for victims of domestic violence. Included in their services are education and support on teen dating violence, sexual harassment, abuse and stalking.

Kotusky said the first challenge for she and Phelps was determining where to start in organizing a fundraiser. They decided to first coordinate with New Beginnings director Kitty Kiefer to get her input about what she would like to see done with such an event, and find a location. The girls then sought assistance from Gilford Police Department's School Resource Officer, Holly Harris.

"We decided to use an already established, sanctioned trail that starts and ends at the Gilford Community Church. Officer Harris has helped with other races there, so she was really helpful in marking the trail with us," said Kotusky.

They also garnered further assistance from Audra Tassone of EndorFUN Sports in Gilford. Tassone has helped in the organization of major triathlons and marathons in central New Hampshire, and stepped up to lend her expertise and some race day signage to the project.

"Both of them have been such a big, big help," said Kotusky.

Next up was advertising. They created fliers and registration forms for the event, asking people to "Put violence on pause and run for a cause."

Beyond the walls of Belmont High School, the pair have been reaching out through email and phone calls to other area high schools, looking to also draw an interest from their peers around the Lakes Region.

"A couple of the schools seem like they'll help us out, and we're hoping others will, too," said Phelps. "We'd love to see students from all the local schools come out and show their support."

Teachers are being invited to join in as well, and Phelps and Kotusky have traveled throughout the Shaker Regional School District to seek involvement from the staff, even if their students may be too young to join in on a 5K walk/run. From there, they have been taking the word to the streets, leaving fliers at local businesses where community members can also sign up for the event.

"These are two ambitious girls, and I'm really excited for their help in putting this together. It's a worthy cause, and I hope to see many people come out and support us in helping New Beginnings," said Lavallee.

On Saturday, May 5, the race will kick off at 8:45 a.m. for walkers and 9 a.m. for runners. Pre-registration for the sanctioned event is $25, and includes a tee shirt if received by April 15, but registration will also be held on race day, beginning at 7:30 a.m.

To pre-register, runners and walkers alike are asked to contact Lavallee at llavallee@sau80.org or by calling 267-6525, ext. 103, during school hours. Forms may also be picked up at local businesses and mailed to: Belmont High School, c/o Laura Lavallee, 255 Seavey Rd., Belmont, NH. Another option to show support for the student led project and raise money for New Beginnings is to simply request to buy a tee shirt for $15.

All proceeds from the event will go directly to New Beginnings and their programs.

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Varney Smith
Brewster Academy
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