March 25, 2015.
Organized by Union Station Homeless Services, participants dressed up in rocker gear to race to end homelessness. Families, volunteers and sponsors gathered at Arcadia County Park this past Saturday to participate in the first annual Rockin’ for the Homeless 5K run/ walk.
Union Station’s Young Leaders Society, a group of young professionals who are dedicated to ending homelessness, were the brains behind the event.
“Our Young Leaders Society decided they wanted to organize a fundraising event for our services,” said Marvin Gross, the CEO of Union Station Homeless Services. “We’re very excited about this. We have nearly 300 people signed up today.”
For most participants this was a fun, family friendly event to help out for a good cause. For others, this was an opportunity to help give back to the community.
“The good thing is that we really have a large base of volunteers so everyone’s always willing to come and help,” said Floridel Sotelo, the development and communications associate for the Homeless Services. “We have a great group of sponsors. We have school volunteer groups.”
According to Sotelo, all the proceedings from the event would go to shelter, housing and career development for the homeless.
“If they refer to us, we do the best to help them and give them the right services that they need,” said Sotelo.
Besides the Homeless Services and the Young Leaders Society, there were volunteers from Disney and Pasadena City College’s Alpha Gamma Sigma.
“It’s a small event, not something huge,” said Gustavo Bueno, an AGS member. “We’re going to make sure everyone’s okay.”
The event started when people started to trickle in at 8 a.m. for the check in. Adults of all ages arrived, some decked out in “rocker” clothing, others in more traditional runners gear. Participants in the 5K event could choose to run or walk. Children would participate in a 1K obstacle course after the 5K finished.
Among the runners who participated was Joseph Rene, a sponsor.
“I’ve been a volunteer for 13 years,” said Rene, who was participating in the 5k as the lead runner and cheerleader.
Equipped with a megaphone, Rene exuded boundless energy. He constantly herded participants to the sign-in booth and made sure that everyone was as excited for the event as he was.
“I don’t think there’s any reason people should be homeless and hungry,” said Rene. “Especially children that really don’t have a choice in the matter.”
Although currently a successful hairstylist who runs his own salon, Rene said that he empathizes greatly with the homeless community and hopes to make a difference by volunteering and donating to events such as the 5K run/walk.
“I grew up as a ward of the Los Angeles county system myself,” said Rene. “I wasn’t homeless, but I was near to being homeless.”
With Rene as their guide, runners lined up at the starting line and began their 5K run at 8:30 a.m. Some were serious as they raced to be first, but for everyone who was running there were groups of people walking while laughing and smiling as they encouraged one another to finish the race strong.
The band Head Light View played rock music to keep the crowd energized as groups of volunteers and supportive family and friends waited for the runners to cross the finish line.
“I work for Disney so we’re part of the Disney volunteers,” said Omar Cabral, one of the singers for the band. “They really encourage us to get out into the community and help out.”
Along with music, food trucks were also available for those that wanted something to snack on. Kona Ice and Pie ‘n Burger showed up to help support the event.
With the last of the participants crossing the finish line at 9:20 a.m., it was time for the 1K Kiddie Dash. Complete with several fun obstacles, the event was a treat for kids.
“It was fun,” said Ella Beltzer, a participant in the 1K. “I think this is really nice. It was for a really great cause.”
Although this was Union Station Homeless Services first time hosting this event, Gross said he wouldn’t mind doing it again.
“It seems that the community is really interested in supporting this. If everything does well today we might do it again next year and maybe the year after that.”