More than just the Nittany Lion football team took the field this weekend at Beaver Stadium, as the State College community and beyond participated in the Paterno Family Beaver Stadium Run on Sunday.
About 3,000 people were estimated to have taken part in the annual event, which benefits Special Olympics Pennsylvania. Athletes, families and everyday people both young and old took to the streets of Penn State in either a 3-mile run or a 2-mile fun walk.
“These type of events help our athletes participate free of charge,” Special Olympics Pennsylvania Director of Special Events Demika Poole said. The event was expected to raise up to $450,000, she said, thanks largely to a $100,000 donation by primary sponsor Sheetz.
Sunday marked the seventh year for the run, Poole said, as the event capitalizes on the popularity of Blue-White weekend. Numerous funding streams throughout the weekend added to the total, including raffles, a silent auction and a VIP reception at the Bryce Jordan Center.
The funding supports Special Olympic events throughout the year, she said, including the upcoming summer games hosted each year in State College. This year’s summer games are scheduled for June 2-4.
The funding also supports other initiatives, Poole said, including the Healthy Athletes program, which provides screening for the athletes during the events.
“At the competition, they get screened by doctors,” she said. “Sometimes there’s a disparity between the athletes and health care, so we can provide that extra support at the events.”
Runners gathered on Curtin Road as speakers such as Franco Harris took the stage to raise spirits and motivate the crowd. Nittany Lions football coach James Franklin thanked the community for rallying behind an “unbelievable cause.”
What makes Penn State special is days like this when so many people come together through this community to be a part of something bigger than just themselves.
James Franklin, Penn State football coach
“People question and wonder what makes Penn State special, whether it’s U.S. News and World Report rankings or it’s Beaver Stadium and the traditions we have here,” Franklin said. “What makes Penn State special is days like this when so many people come together through this community to be a part of something bigger than just themselves.”
Franklin joined the race with his daughter Shola, who first rallied the crowd with an enthusiastic chant of “we are.”
Leading the race was Pittsburgh police Assistant Chief of Operations Scott Shubert. Shubert, director of the State Torch Run, carried the official torch used in the 2015 Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles.
Poole cited the importance the police and the Law Enforcement Torch Run play in the games as a whole, saying the organization brings in significant funding for the games.
“Without their partnership,” she said, “we wouldn’t be able to manage the safety and logistics of the event.”
Runners and walkers left the starting line at about 11 a.m. Participants completed their courses at the football field in Beaver Stadium. There, participants were greeted with cheers and applause by fellow runners and event staff.
Jan Petrich, of State College, completed the 2-mile course with his wife, Bertta, and son Lance, 5. While the run was a first for him, Lance and his mother had participated in the event last year.
While Lance said he and his family both walked and ran the route, his favorite part was finishing.
“It’s great to see everyone out here participating,” Petrich said.
Medals were awarded at the end by Sue Paterno for runners with the top three times in each age category, ranging from 6 to 80. The top time overall went to Daniel Craighead, 26, for his 3-mile run at 15:43:43.