At a call of “Go!” more than 200 students charged up the hill behind McKeldin Library and down the sidewalk along Preinkert Drive yesterday afternoon, kicking off the Honors College’s first ever Terp Trot 5K to raise money for genetic disease research.
At the end of the day, the event raised about $1,500 for the Genetic Alliance, a nonprofit health advocacy organization that supports the study of genetic diseases and services for those who have them. For Honors College Director William Dorland, who recommended the Genetic Alliance as the fundraiser’s recipient, the cause is a very personal one. In 2004, Dorland was diagnosed with chordoma, a rare form of spinal cancer, and he recently signed up for an experimental treatment trial involving genetically engineered bacteria — one of the fields of research that Genetic Alliance supports.
“Students have the power to organize and make change, and I think events like this remind us all that we can make a difference,” Dorland said.
Members of the Honors College Student Programming Council, who planned the event, said they were glad the first Terp Trot could support a cause that benefits Dorland and others.
“It really shows that the Honors College is a community when we come out and kind of back one of the main figureheads of the community,” said council Vice President Kelly Markham.
Event organizers set up a small exhibition in the Anne Arundel Hall basement lounge, where the students gathered for the run, featuring information about genetic diseases such as sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, Angelman syndrome and autism.
“A lot of Genetic Alliance deals with rare diseases, and a lot of them, people don’t know about — hence rare,” Student Programming Council President-elect Rachel Sullivan said. “But this raises awareness as well as raising funds for a good cause.”
Before the run began, Genetic Alliance president and CEO Sharon Terry took the microphone to speak about her organization and thank the students for their efforts to help out.
“I’m just astounded. It’s fabulous,” Terry said of the turnout at the event. “I saw on Facebook like 300 people registered, and these guys got it together really beautifully, so I’m very excited.”
After the run was over, the fastest male, female and non-student runner each received a frozen turkey roast courtesy of Dorland. These winners were freshman computer engineering major Chris Steenkamer, freshman engineering major Corinne Fleet and Larry Whitt from Laurel, Md.
Student Programming Council President Anna Pham said the council plans to build off the successful Trot and hold even bigger and better events in the future. She said they even hope to arrange a competition against Duke University to see which university can gather the most participants and money. The council tried to organize a competition this year, but Duke was not able to organize quickly enough, Dorland said.
“Hopefully in the future, we will make it a competition between us and Duke because one of Dr. Dorland’s friends who is also very involved with Genetic Alliance is a professor at Duke, and we saw that as a perfect opportunity to really gain more of the student body if it’s an us-versus-Duke competition,” Markham said.
Several student runners said they thought the first Terp Trot was a fun and successful way to raise money for a good cause.
“I think all events that support research for disease prevention are definitely good ideas,” runner and freshman computer science major Brandon Weber said.