Dover, Ohio - Area residents are invited to lace up their running shoes and show their support for a program that provides weekend meals to hungry students throughout Tuscarawas County. 

On Saturday morning, the NewPointe Community Church will be hosting a 5K race and kids fun run at its Dover Campus to benefit the Tuscarawas County Health Department’s Blessings in a Backpack weekend meal program.

Nicole Dorsey is a health educator for the Tuscarawas County Health Department who helps oversee Blessings in a Backpack program. She says that the program was established in 2016 as a way to help ensure that food-insecure elementary school students in Tuscarawas County are getting enough to eat during the weekend.

“We send them home with food to last them until they get back to school on Monday,” she says. "We help with that so when they get back to school on Monday, they can be ready to learn and socialize.”

To date, the program has provided nearly 13,000 bags, or about 91,000 food items, to a total of 350 elementary school students in the Claymont, Newcomerstown and Indian Valley school districts but its future has become uncertain.  

Dorsey explains that the program has been funded up to this point with a Maternal and Child Health Block Grant from the Ohio Department of Health. The health department learned recently that the grant was going to be discontinued.

“That grant is no longer being offered, so starting in October, we will not be grant funded anymore. That means to continue the program, which all of us here at the health department think is very important, we have to base the program on donations,” she says.

The health department reached out to the community for help and was approached by officials from NewPointe about the possibility of hosting a fundraiser to support the program.

“NewPointe reached out to us to see what they could do, and one of the things they came up with was to have this 5K to benefit the program,” Dorsey says. 

Chad Stutzman is director of stewardship for NewPointe Community Church. He explains that the event is part of a service campaign called I’m In that is being launched at all of the church’s campuses. 

“This was a way through a fundraiser like this that we could raise awareness for that campaign and let people know that here at NewPointe we’re trying to partner with organizations in our communities that are making a difference in people’s lives, and we want to support that,” he says. “By running in the race, you can raise some money to help support an organization that’s trying to feed kids.” 

Same-day registration begins Saturday at 7 a.m. for the kids fun run that begins at 8 and the 5K that begins at 8:30.

Stutzman says there is no cost to sign up for the fun run, which is open to children ages 13 and under.

“Any kids can come to that. It stays in the parking lot, so we’re not out on the road. There’s going to be some obstacles and stuff like that, and there’s participation ribbons that all the kids will get. The top three will get a medal of some sort,” he says. 

The 5K race is open to participants ages 14 and older and follows a path that begins at the church, continues across the street and through the Norma Johnson Center and ends back at the church.

“It’s going to be mostly a trail run. We’re going to start here at the Dover Campus and go over to the Norma Johnson Center trails and run some of the trails over there and end up back at NewPointe,” Stutzman says. 

The cost to register for the 5K race is $25 per person, and all participants will receive an I’m In Swag Bag consisting of a cinch pack, water bottle and snacks.

Awards will be presented to the top three male and female finishers overall, and ribbons will be awarded to the top three male and female finishers in each age category.

For those who are unable to attend the race but would like to support the Blessings in a Backpack program, donations can be mailed to: Tuscarawas County Health Department, 897 East Iron Ave., Dover, OH 44622. Checks should include Blessings in a Backpack in the memo line. 

Stacey Carmany, Tusco TV

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