Hosted by the Camden Clock Chasers, a non-profit youth athletic organization also based in East Camden, the dual-purpose event would provide an educational and enjoyable day in the park while also raising funds for The Clock Chasers organization and their newly created Full Circle Scholarship Fund. The fund, founded this year, recognizes a graduating senior who has given back to community youth through mentorship within the Clock Chasers organization.
After a few hours of preparation by volunteers the 5K was ready to begin. At 10am, the gun went off. The street run began on Federal and took turns at Terrace, Highland, Marlton Pike and 27th Street before heading back down Federal and finishing with a stretch above the park on Dudley, Rosedale and 33rd Streets, then finishing back at Dudley Grange. The streets were blocked by Camden County P.D. and the run was host to over 85 runners, a respectable turn out for the inaugural year. Included in the participants were many members of the Woodrow Wilson H.S. Varsity Football Team. With Wilson just across the street from the park, the support of the team and the opportunity for residents to see Wilson players in uniform running past their homes and businesses was a unique and exciting experience. As the runners and walkers passed by, many residents could be seen at their doors or front steps, clapping or cheering. This positive feedback continued throughout the 3.2 mile course. The first runner came in at 19:58 the final walker arrived after 55 minutes, allowing opportunities for all skill levels to get out and get moving through the neighborhood. The event also offered a shorter 1 mile course for those not yet ready to take on a 5K. At noon, the 1 Mile Fun Run kicked off bringing the total participants to over 100. In addition to the runners/walkers, many more people came to check out the Community Block Party immediately following. The Block Party was complete with a DJ, vendors, giveaways, food and drink. It drew residents to the park to chat with vendors, grab a bite or even get in on a line dance. In fact, after the run, DJ Prince Maine put on the “Wobble” and most of the race volunteers and attendees got on the dance floor to “wobble, baby, wobble!”
The Block Party continued until 3PM and included bounce houses for the kids, free BBQ and juices provided by Tropicana of Jersey City and Wawa of Pennsauken. Some the vendors & organizations in the park included: Pacesetters of South Jersey, Camden Raiders Youth Sports Organization, Americorps, Body By Tee All-Natural Body Products, Camden County Health Dept., It Works, ID Life Vitamins, Millennium Skate World, Air Raid Football, and possibly the most popular group of the day: Jumpspire, a non-profit specializing in Double Dutch. Yes, young and old jumped between the dual ropes, with some of day’s best performances coming from those who first learned Double Dutch more than a decade ago.
As the day wound down, the last prizes were given away and the DJ played the last song, one thing was clear: the beautiful day had translated to a beautiful event in a part of the city not often host to runs or family fun. The theme of Chasing Dreams - dreams of a healthier life, safer neighborhood, simple pleasures in one’s own backyard - did not need to be chased that day. The dream was reality and it is a tradition that The Clock Chasers plan to continue. Lavar Edwards, Clock Chasers’ President, spoke about the day and the event as a whole: “We wanted to bring an event to East Camden, to benefit not only the neighborhood but to draw people from outside the city. Runs are often hosted at the Waterfront, but they rarely benefit organizations in the city, so money comes in and goes right back out.” Edwards continued, “we were looking to create a memorable experience by allowing participation on various levels.. to impact our community through involvement and sincere effort. We want people to know what we are doing and why; we want it to be real for the residents.”
The effort became real and documented just this week, when Edwards awarded the first Full Circle Scholarship at the Wilson HS graduation. With the scholarship now in place and the first Chasing Dreams 5K in the books, Edwards and staff plan to make this event an annual tradition. If you are interested in supporting this event be on the lookout for Chasing Dreams 2017. It’s a chance to support a community often ignored, in a manner that allows the local residents and businesses to get involved for a great cause. Many would agree - it’s a dream worth chasing.
A big THANK YOU to our race sponsors:
Without them, this event would not have been possible!
Camden, NJ (June 18) – It’s early Saturday morning in East Camden. On Federal Street, there are some people gathered in the front of Dudley Grange Park along with several police cars. Based on city statistics, passerby would be justified to assume it was the scene of a crime that occurred just a few hours before. However, on this Saturday, they would be wrong. Today, Dudley Grange Park is the site of The 1st Annual Chasing Dreams 5K and Block Party: an all-day event to promote wellness in the community.