The great running legend Steve "Pre" Prefontaine once said, "A race is a work of art that people can look at and be affected in as many ways they're capable of understanding."
The same can be said about books.
Jean Dean Reading is Fundamental, a nonprofit organization dedicated to battling illiteracy, held its third annual Run to Read event Saturday.
The event was held at Floral Park in Opelika and attracted almost 300 participants, more than 200 of whom pre-registered before race day.
"The first year we had 40 people register, the second year we had about 200 registered, and this year we already have 232 pre-registered," said Meg Gafford, a volunteer and the daughter and granddaughter of Jean Dean RIF co-founders Cathy Gafford and Joe Dean. It has been their largest and most successful race to date.
Jean Dean RIF is responsible for putting more than 75,000 brand new, age-appropriate books in the hands of at-risk children yearly.
Since the project began in 1990, it has provided more than 1 million books to children all over Alabama.
"We have people come into their classrooms and read to them," Meg said. "They get to pick their own book, their name is written in it, and they get to take it home."
Planners of the project work closely with Kiwanis clubs. The project is named in honor of the late wife of Joe Dean, a former Kiwanis club district governor of Alabama.
The Run to Read 5K run and the one-and-a-half-mile walk are aimed at raising awareness and funds for the RIF project.
"We're going to have a 5K and a 10K next year, and we hope that will attract more serious runners," said run director Rich Bailey.
The event included a 50-yard dash and other activities for kids.
"We want to keep family-fun events," Bailey said. "We want to keep it safe."
Music was provided by WEGL 91.1 FM, and special guests included Clifford the Big Red Dog and Auburn University's own Aubie the Tiger.
Licensed sports massage therapist Rebekah Hall provided massages on site for a donation to Jean Dean RIF.
All participants received a gift bag consisting of coupons and a T-shirt.
Door prizes were also given, which included gift certificates to several stores such as Best Buy.
The grand door prize was a weekend vacation in a North Carolina timeshare.
"Everybody that registered here for around $10 is in a drawing for a North Carolina mountain vacation," said Cathy, director of Jean Dean RIF.
The 5K event was won in fewer than 17 minutes by Will Frye, freshman in clinical psychology.
Several organizations volunteered for the event, including the Auburn University chapters of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, Beta Sigma Phi sorority and IMPACT; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Kohl's; the Opelika High School track team; the Kiwanis clubs of Opelika, Auburn and Greater Auburn; and a number of independent volunteers. Major sponsors included Charter Bank, Opelika-Auburn News, the Independent Pilot's Association (UPS Pilots) and Kiwanis.
To volunteer or donate, please contact Jean Dean RIF at 334-749-5631 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The RIF building is at 1105 Fitzpatrick Ave.