Hundreds of runners will congregate this Sunday at the corner of College and Wall streets to run to East Rock and back to raise money for New Haven youth.
Julia’s Run For Children, an annual fundraiser that honors the memory of former Yale student Julia Rusinek, supports Leadership, Education & Athletics in Partnership — a local nonprofit dedicated to extracurricular programming and leadership development for youth in underserved neighborhoods. The race is organized through the collaborative efforts of community organizations, Yale and the Rusinek family. According to Rachel Kline-Brown, director of development at Leadership, Education & Athletics in Partnership, the run is a particularly fitting way to support the nonprofit and its ideals: leadership, education and athletics in partnership.
“[Julia’s Run] is really in line with what we do. We are trying to promote the kids being active and athletic, so the fact that it is a run is really good for our kids. … Partnership is really also a very important piece because one part of what we hope to do is to bring people together,” Kline-Brown said. “Julia, her essence and what we’re trying to honor, is really a lot of what [Leadership, Education & Athletics in Partnership] tries to do — just helping kids in the community and helping it be a more equitable place for everybody.”
When Julia Rusinek — a senior in Jonathan Edwards College at Yale — died from an undetected heart condition in July 1999, her friends and family sought to celebrate her life through the establishment of a memorial fund in her name. The Julia Rusinek Memorial Fund, which supports organizations that empower children in poverty, has raised over $200,000 for Leadership, Education & Athletics in Partnership since 2000, the inaugural year of Julia’s Run. The event, a four-mile race and children’s fun run, was inspired by Julia’s passion for running and commitment to serving underprivileged children.
Beyond encouraging athleticism, race organizers are also hoping to spotlight Leadership, Education & Athletics in Partnership’s academic development work during the event. This year, three Leadership, Education & Athletics in Partnership students will read their work from a Leadership, Education & Athletics in Partnership essay-writing class, which aimed to prepare them to craft college essays in the future. In prior years, Julia’s friends and family read aloud their essays about the importance of the run and their memories of Julia, who was also a writer.
“[Leadership, Education & Athletics in Partnership] really is very creative in the way that they use the resources. … During every run we see them, we talk to them, so there is a little bit of bonding,” said Roza Rusinek, Julia’s mother, who has been working on planning the run. “The event became a very important part of a tradition — our family tradition, extended family and friends, and then we have runners, … and you see the kids to whom the money is going, because [Leadership, Education & Athletics in Partnership] is very present there.”
Rusinek said she hopes at least 300 runners register for the race this Sunday, especially since turnout has decreased in recent years. To encourage public participation, local businesses will provide food and donate prizes for a raffle at the end of the run.
In the face of recent state budget cuts, fundraising from Julia’s Run has become increasingly important. Organizers of Julia’s Run are hoping to surpass $17,000 — the amount of funds raised in 2017 — this year. The group has lost 30 percent of its state funding each year for the past four years, and the organization was forced to close one of its five sites this fall. According to Kline-Brown, fundraising from Julia’s Run will help ensure that Leadership, Education & Athletics in Partnership can continue its work, which serves over 1,300 Elm City children with free programming and employs over 200 local young adults as counselors.
Abdul-Razak Zachariah ’17, grant writer for Leadership, Education & Athletics in Partnership, said that the organization is attempting to become less dependent on the state by improving its grant applications and finding more individual donors. Zachariah, who also works in Leadership, Education & Athletics in Partnership’s development office, said he is hopeful that the partnerships the organization is forging with other nonprofits and universities in the city may make providing comprehensive youth programming less costly.
Jonathan Edwards and Timothy Dwight colleges are among those pitching in to support the run this year. Jonathan Edwards, which has supported the event since its beginning, will provide food and water for runners. This year, the Timothy Dwight Head of College Office is sponsoring ten runners to participate in the race. Head Mary Lui said she hopes that encouraging students to run will increase engagement with New Haven.
“When I came on board as the head of TD, … I definitely made a point of saying, ‘I love the fact that TD’s location is right on the edge of downtown New Haven that we are surrounded by all these great institutions and many, many opportunities for TDers to get involved,” said Lui. “The basic spirit is that I really want TD students to be empowered to go out and do things in the New Haven community, because it is a great community and wants students to be involved.”
Registration for Julia’s Run starts at 8 a.m. on Sunday at Woolsey Hall, and the main run begins at 10 a.m. on Cross Campus.
Ruiyan Wang | email@example.com