Orange County

Running for a cause: inaugural 5K to impact kids

Rachael Riley;

CHAPEL HILL -- Cold drizzle Sunday didn’t dampen spirits for the inaugural Positive Impact for Kids 5K at Southern Community Park.

Positive Impact for Kids is a nonprofit organized by 17-year-old Leanne Joyce.

When she was 12, Leanne was diagnosed with aortic valve stenosis, which halted her athletic activities as jump roper and competitive swimmer and gymnast.

“Around the same time I was in the hospital waiting for cardiac test results and a group of volunteers gave me a gift, which just made me feel so good about myself and knowing that people care about children in the hospital just meant to world to me, and so I decided to use the time I could spend playing sports to start a nonprofit,” Leanne said.

Positive Impact for Kids donates technology used for education and that allows pediatric patients to connect with friends and family back home to help distract them from the hospital environment, she said.

It has donated to at least one hospital in each state -- 87 total -- to benefit more than 500,000 hospitalized children.

“The patient's child life specialists will ask me ‘what did you do because I haven’t seen this child smile like that in months,’ and so that just really makes all the difference for me,” Leanne said. “That’s really why I do this.”

Stan Newsome was Leanne’s school resource officer when she was in middle school and learned about her nonprofit from a teacher.

After receiving the OK from the Blue Knights of Orange and Alamance -- a law enforcement motorcycle club -- Newsome reached out to Leanne and her mother to run with the idea of a 5K fundraiser.

“I was told it should be unique, so I said ‘hey, why don’t we do a fun run with the chief,” Newsome said.

Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue agreed to give kids a one-minute head start for a one-mile race that followed Sunday’s 5K.

“How can you say no?” Blue said. “Leanne’s such an impressive young woman and done a remarkable job with both organizing her fundraising charity and this event.”

Chasing behind Chief Blue was 7-year-old William Turner, who finished with a time of about 7 minutes and 41 seconds.

“It was very fun,” William said.

His 16-year-old brother Eli Turner won the 5K with a time of 18 minutes and 50 seconds.

Both boys participated because their mother, Carolyn Turner, saw the sign at Duke Children’s Hospital.

“ I didn’t know what it was and I looked into it later, and anything to support the kids at the children’s hospitals is great,” Turner said.

Duke Health System was a title sponsor of the event.

Leanne projected the event would raise more than $15,000.

More than 20 children signed up to participate in Sunday’s run, and more than 100 were signed up for the 5K.

Newsome said it was great to see the support, despite the weather.

“The kids that they’re going to help with this are going through so much more than this little rain and to still see everybody come out and participate, it’s kind of hard to explain how it makes you feel,” he said.

Emily Easthom, 17, was one of the runners, and she participates in cross country and track in school.

“My friend told me about (Leanne), but I don’t know her personally,” Emily said. “ I saw it on Facebook and I saw some of my friends who are also out here running, so I decided I should run, too.”

Alexa Phillips, 21, has known Leanne and her mother for about 10 years.

“She is one of my brother’s friends in school and I’ve followed this charity she founded the last couple of years and have just been amazed by everything she’s done,” Phillips said. “So naturally I wanted to be apart of this and encourage her.”

Leanne’s goal is to raise $100,000 for Positive Impact for Kids by the end of the school year.

Newsome said he thinks she’ll meet it.