Vaughn Elementary School runners fly off the starting line during last year’s PenLight Summer Fun Run at 360 Trails. This year, event organizers are hoping for a community-wide turnout for the popular event designed to support local schools. Courtesy photo by Greg Anglemeyer

If you’re looking for a healthy, unique way to celebrate Father’s Day a few days early this year, put on your running shoes and join the PenLight Summer Fun Run on the Key Peninsula’s 360 Trails on June 15.

According to Jessica Smeall, recreation coordinator for Key Pen Parks, this is the second year for the run.

“We started planning this when the PTA at Minter Creek Elementary wanted to do something to get the kids active –– and maybe serve as a fundraiser for the PTA,” Smeall said. “They thought it might be good to have a fun run.

“Minter Creek had the idea, but we expanded it to include Evergreen and Vaughn Elementary and KPMS.”

PenLight stepped in as sponsor of the event and Key Pen Parks is using it as a way to “expose the community to 360 Trails,” Smeall said.

“It’s an amazing resource. It’s 360 acres with trails that loop through meadows and forest. It’s a great place to walk, run, ride horses, bicycle or do just about anything to get active,” she said.

The race is also getting support from Route 16, a Gig Harbor store that sells running and walking gear. “They’re our race director and they’re also doing the timing and handling the finish line. It’s great to have their support,” Smeall said.

“This race is a great opportunity for folks to get out learn the trails of this true jewel-of-a-park on the Key Peninsula,” said Alexa Martin, coordinator of training programs for Route 16.

“It’s a very unique landscape and the trails are in amazing shape. I often send runners and walkers there who are recovering from injuries because the trails are so wide, gentle and soft. It’s like running on clouds,” Martin said.

The PenLight is the primary sponsor.

“They have an educational initiative,” Smeall said. “They came on board because the race kind of goes along their power line road. They provide funding for the race and help with advertising and they bring a big bucket truck for kids to play on. Their support helps us break even.”

According to Smeall, the race is an annual Father’s Day celebration, and will fall on the last weekend before school gets out.

“This year it’s on June 15. It’s sort of a last chance to come out and support your school because the school that has the biggest turn-out of runners gets a big trophy,” Smeall said. “Right now the trophy is living at Vaughn Elementary but the other schools are all really up for getting it back for themselves.”

There will be a 5K run and also a 1K kids’ dash, Smeall said.

Last year, in addition to about 115 runners, there were 40 people who walked the course. There were also hundreds of people cheering the runners, and volunteers all along the course giving out water, she said.

“You don’t have to be an athlete to participate. The idea is that we’re exposing kids to a sense of community. We can all find a way to participate and support what we’re doing here,” Smeall said.

All kids run for free. There’s no registration fee for anyone 12 and under.

Smeall said the timed 5K race begins at 9 a.m, followed by three separate races according to age group for the kids. There are medals for all the winners according to age groups and every finisher receives a ribbon.

Race brochures are available at running stores on the KP and in Gig Harbor.

Registration for the 5K is $20 before June 4. After that date and on race day, registration is $30. Five dollars of every registration fee goes to the PTA of the runner’s choice.

“It’s really a fun event,” Smeall said. “There’s something for everyone. Our goal is to have this be an event that truly supports our local schools.”

To register or to be a volunteer, visit keypenparks.com or phone (253) 884-9240.

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