Helping those who help others.
That is one of the themes woven into “50 for Florida” which will arrive on the weekend of the first anniversary of Hurricane Michael and seeks to raise $500,000 in its first year.
Emphasize that “first year” because the pledge is a three-year commitment to raise $2 million for Port St. Joe and Mexico Beach, said Tim Cannady, race director for 50 for Florida.
50 for Florida, which will be held Oct. 12, is less a race, however, than runners uniting under a “common love of running and giving back,” according to the event’s website.
Cannady said the idea originated with an Atlanta-based executive of Chick Fil A, David Milliken, who also owns a home located between Mexico Beach and Port St. Joe.
“He saw all the devastation and wondered what he could do to help,” Cannady said. “He not only has a home in the area, he has a heart for the area.
“He wanted to do something.”
Brainstorming with some fellow executives in Atlanta, Milliken and the group came up with the idea of 50 for Florida and reached out to Cannady to take it from there.
“He came and talked to me about it and wondered if he was being crazy,” Cannady said. “I said yes, but let’s do it anyway.”
They set the monetary goal immediately: $500,000 in the first year, $2 million over three years.
The initial concept was to start the race in Panama City Beach and run the 50 miles to Port St. Joe, but logistical issues provided barriers too high to cross.
Therefore, the race will begin and end in the parking lot of First Baptist Church of Port St. Joe on U.S. 98.
The course continues through Mexico Beach to Louisiana Ave. in Tyndall and returns on the same route; runners will go out on one side of U.S. 98 and return on the other side.
Cannady said he is in the final stages of permitting with local and state agencies, including the Florida Highway Patrol and Florida Department of Transportation.
Along the route, there will be seven aid stations with food and drink and Port A- Potties.
The stations are placed in such a fashion to encourage relay teams; a runner will cover roughly a 10k between stations.
“There will be those ultra-runners who will run the entire 50 miles,” Cannady said. “But most of the runners will be in relays.
“In addition to allowing more participation, it also will keep the number of runners on the route at any one time down.”
Runners have already registered from around the country, Cannady said, from the Far West to Northeast.
In effect, this is a pledge run.
Runners pay $100 to register with a commitment to raise another $900 within a specified time period by enlisting friends and family, or anybody, to support their run.
Additionally, the event’s website provides an array of ways to donate to the cause by purchasing a host of gear, such as T-shirts and other “event swag.”
Individuals may also donate directly to the cause without sponsoring a runner.
“The money is going to and through the churches,” Cannady said.
A mission from the outset was “helping create a sense of sustainability among those in a position of caring for the masses,” according to the event website.
Too many churches, Cannady noted, sustained damage in the hurricane and must rebuild despite congregations which have been displaced and offerings which have dropped.
“We wanted to provide money to sustain them, help them pay the bills, so (pastors) can stay put and continue to serve the community,” Cannady said.
“The churches will also know those who are most in need in their community.”
To learn more, register to run or donate, visit www.50forFLcom or visit the event’s page on Facebook.