LEWISTON— Thousands of locals will be slipping on sneakers or climbing onto bicycles this summer to join a growing number of athletic events.

And they’ll be doing it for causes.

Leaders of an inaugural event, Rancourt’s Run/Walk 5K, hope to raise money for the Special Olympics. Other races benefit food pantries, cancer programs, the YMCA of Auburn-Lewiston and Museum L-A.

A new nonprofit group — Moving ME Forward — has been launched by the creators of September’s second annual Lake Auburn Half Marathon.

The point is to help people live healthier, said Bob Brainerd, who co-founded the Lake Auburn run and started the new charity.

“I was born and raised in this community,” Brainerd said. “I’ve always wanted to establish an event where we could give back and do good.”

The first Lake Auburn Half Marathon raised about $6,000. He hopes to double it this year, he said.

“We’re en route to do that,” Brainerd said. “But I think more important are the relationships we’re building.”

Through the charity, he is organizing volunteers to lend a hand at the Good Shepherd Food-Bank and make deliveries to soup kitchens. He’s also working to get children more active in their schools.

“That’s the stuff that I really think is going to be sustaining and ongoing and will make a difference,” said Brainerd, co-owner of Central Maine Conditioning Clinic. “It’s youth. It’s family. It’s people in our own community.”

Brainerd believes summer is plenty long enough for all of the scheduled events. So does Mike Lecompte, who chairs the three-event Triple Crown and helps lead the Bands on the Run half marathon and 5K race in June.

“There could be a race every weekend and I think they’d still be well-attended,” Lecompte said. “The whole key is to have good, quality races.”

Having plenty of awards, refreshments, massages and music helps, too.

Lecompte, who works as a Lewiston firefighter, started the L-A Bridge Run in the late 1990s after growing tired of driving to Portland to run races.

“I just figured, ‘We can do it here,” he said. “And it just took off.”

He’d been running it for a while, helping local teenagers with scholarships for outdoor activities, when people at the YMCA asked for help to start what would become the YMCA Fit Fest. A few years later, Emily’s Run, benefiting the Fletcher Foundation’s college scholarships, joined the pack.

“We had these three races and decided to work smarter,” he said. “Rather than do them all separately, we put them into a series.”

They became the Triple Crown.

On average, about 400 people each season run all three. They are scheduled to begin this year with the YMCA Fit Fest on June 9, Emily’s Run on July 21 and the L-A Bridge Run on Aug. 25.

Lecompte has also helped organize Bands on the Run, which is scheduled for June 23 and will benefit Museum L-A. About 750 people have already signed on for that event.

“We’ll be close to 1,000 people, which is a pretty big race for this area,” Lecompte said. “Portland is able to draw some bigger crowds with a bigger running population, but we’re getting there.”

The newcomer to the mix is Rancourt’s Run, which is scheduled for June 22, the day before Bands on the Run.

It is named in honor of David Rancourt, an Androscoggin County Sheriff’s deputy who died in a diving accident in 2006.

Travys Fecteau, a corrections officer at the Androscoggin County Jail, organized the 5-kilometer run/walk as a way of helping the Special Olympics.

“I’ve always helped them out,” Fecteau said. “It’s really been a blessing.”

Besides working for the charity, he’s attended lots of sporting events and handed out awards to the athletes, who are sometimes awed by his uniform.

“The most rewarding part is seeing their faces,” Fecteau said. At least a dozen of the Special Olympics athletes have agreed to volunteer on race day.

“It’s the first one, and it’s sort of a cool event, in my opinion,” he said.

Brainerd praised all of the runs. Each one makes the community a little better, he said.

“It’s not just runners,” he said of his own event. “There are people showing up with their dogs. There are people showing up with carriages and their babies. It’s not a race, per se. It’s more of an event. People are trying to get involved with movement and activity and lifestyle change.”

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