Circle of Care 5K: Running for the kids

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Runners take off for Circle of Care’s annual fund-raising 5K in Wilton Center. Three hundred signed up with 216 finishers. — Jeffrey Salguero photo

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Wilton Center was a sea of electric orange T-shirts Sunday morning as hundreds of runners and walkers braved a chilly drizzle to put their best foot forward in the Circle of Care’s 5K fund-raiser. From ages in the single digits to their 70s, the participants lined up at the starting line at 8:30 for a race that benefited the organization that offers practical, emotional, and financial support to families with a child battling cancer.

“There are hundreds of children with cancer who’d rather be in this race,” Circle of Care Executive Director Jeff Kimball told them. Looking to the sky he added, “this means nothing.” The crowd gave him a big cheer and then they were off down Old Ridgefield Road, along River Road, around Horseshoe Pond, then back through downtown to Center Street, under the Ridgefield Road overpass, into Merwin Meadows and back out to the finish line at the gazebo.

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Childhood cancer survivors Carlos Salguero, left, Santino Longo, center, and Oliver Tchakarov. — Jeffrey Salguero photo

It was a race for some, like top three finishers Gabby House and Connor Allen of Wilton and Lewis Clarke of Darien, a personal quest for some, like the members of the Run 169 Towns Society — runners with a goal of participating in a race in each of Connecticut’s municipalities, and a cause for those who ran in honor of loved ones.

Twelve teams formed to support Circle of Care, including sponsors Bankwell and Northwest Mutual and Team Santino, which represented Studio Santicello hair salon. There was also Fit4Mom, a team of mothers who pushed a phalanx of strollers, and a team fielded by Staples Field Hockey.

Among those running because they believe in the work of Circle of Care were Janice and Tom Dehn. The couple met co-founder Liz Salguero and her husband, Jeff, about 10 years ago. They learned how Liz Salguero started the organization — with her friend Dawn Ladenheim — after her 3-year-old son Carlos was diagnosed with cancer.

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Gabby House, of Wilton, was first across the finish line with a time of 20:45. — Jeffrey Salguero photo

“I thought, How amazing, here’s someone who went through a horrific experience and her instinct was how to make it better for families facing the same diagnosis,” Janice Dehn told The Bulletin.

“Circle of Care is always on our list of charitable giving for the year,” she said. They have participated in the 5K since its inception three years ago. “I’m not a runner but I walk a lot, and I walked the last three 5Ks.”

Last year they were in New Jersey, so they measured their steps and did a “remote 5K.”

“I was happy to be there and support not only my friend but the work she’s done the last 13 years,” Dehn said.

Forty other people apparently felt the same way, as that’s how many volunteers worked so 300 runners could participate in the 5K and children could join in a fun run. Cash prizes were given to the top three men and women finishers.

Carole Kelleher, a Wilton resident and past Circle of Care board member, shows off her spirit with a tattoo. — Jeffrey Salguero photo
Carole Kelleher, a Wilton resident and past Circle of Care board member, shows off her spirit with a tattoo. — Jeffrey Salguero photo

The title sponsor was Northwestern Mutual. The kids fun run was sponsored by Chase Bank. Other top sponsors were Advanced Radiology, Bankwell, the Stroup family, and Blue Buffalo. The Bulletin was media sponsor.

On-site support was given by Guy at Arena Hairstyling, Village Market, Tusk & Cup, Joyride, Pastry Hideaway, Wilton CERT, and police Capt. Rob Cipolla.