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Bethlehem Project holds Labor Day 5K

| Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

Since 1998, the Bethlehem Project at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral has reached out to not only help the homeless, but to keep families and individuals from losing their homes.

In order to raise funding to help those in need, the Bethlehem Project will hold its annual 5K “Home Run” walk/run, a mainstay of Labor Day weekend in Greensburg.

This year's event will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Monday at Lynch Field.

The course will take runners and walkers through downtown Greensburg and then back to Lynch Field on New Alexandria Road.

“We had a great event last year,” said Sandi Kocian, pastoral assistant for Blessed Sacrament and coordinator of the Bethlehem Project. Last year, 224 participants finished the course, with participants ranging in age from 4 to 71, according to the event posting on the Running in the USA website.

“We had 283 participate, which is our highest yet,” Kocian said. “This year we hope to see 300.”

Over the past decade, 5K events have grown in popularity as a viable, fun way to raise funding for organizations and groups. Riding on the success of previous years, the folks of the Bethlehem Project decided to continue the popular event.

“We have more people every year,” Kocian said. “We do have a lot of people who have been with us from the start, but every year there is more.”

Kocian said that the event is so well-received and anticipated, that participants contact her in advance of the event to check in.

The route is appropriate for people of all ages and abilities.

“We see a lot of families,” Kocian said. “It's something that they can enjoy together and we even have people that come who push strollers.”

The course has been designed for both those who like to enjoy a stroll and those who take their runs a little more seriously.

“People have told us year after year how much they enjoy our event,” Kocian said.

The event will feature a staggered start. Registration will be open at 7 a.m.

There are 15 separate age groups, with trophies going to the top overall male and female runners and walkers. Medals will go the second- and third-place finishers in the overall category, along with those who claim the top two spots in each age group.

Kocian said organizers are grateful for about 75 volunteers who come out every year to help with the event, from the civic workers who donate their time to the members of the police department and local volunteer fire departments.

“I am so touched and grateful every year to see these volunteers come out — over a holiday weekend — and donate their time,” Kocian said. “I can honestly say that we would not be able to do this if it wasn't for the volunteers.”

The proceeds from the event will go to the Bethlehem Project's work with the homeless and those who are on the brink of becoming so.

“We want to help the potential homeless of Westmoreland County,” Kocian said. “We presently work with 14 different ZIP codes and we would love to be able to add more.”

Kocian said that she personally speaks with the families and individuals who are helped through the work of the Bethlehem Project and urges anyone interested in helping the less fortunate in the community to come to the 5K.

“I would love to see more people come out and walk with us,” Kocian said. “They can take part in the event, get a little exercise and know that they are helping people in the community — people right here, right in their own neighborhoods.”

Marilyn Forbes is a contributing writer.