WEST PARIS — Walkers and runners of all ages are invited to join in a community 5k Pumpkin Run on Sunday, Oct. 20, to raise money for the Agnes Gray Elementary School.

The footrace is a departure for the West Paris Parent-Teacher Organization, which has relied on traditional fundraising sources to support its work in the past. 

However, the PTO wanted to branch out and combine this year’s fundraising effortswith the school’s emphasis on health and wellness.

“We wanted to raise money for the school in a healthy way that’s going to get kids and their parents outside and doing something together and getting active,” said Joanna Brown, a PTO member who has helped organize the event. 

The event combines a straight 5k race with a mile-long fun run and walk. It will start and end at the Agnes Gray Elementary School on Main Street in West Paris village. Participants will be treated with pumpkin pie and a homemade chili contest at the finish line. 

Brown said the event is a “huge change” for the organization.

In years past, the PTO raised money by selling candy or wrapping paper through fundraising companies, she said.

Instead, the Pumpkin Run is a homegrown event. Community members, including many businesses and individuals, have poured support into the race, an encouraging sign that it may be a sustainable fundraising model.

Another positive sign is how quickly people have signed up for the race — Brown said the PTO set a goal of 100 participants for the first year and, as of last week, 92 have already registered. 

The Pumpkin Run isn’t just an inventive way to raise money, it also falls in line with the school’s emphasis on student health and wellness, Brown explained. 

Across the Oxford Hills School District, exercise and health has become a focus in recent years. Teachers and administrators at Agnes Gray administration have especially focused on student health. 

Students from all grade levels have been preparing for the race by running during lunch breaks and have even written to other schools, inviting them to participate, Brown said. 

“We’re really excited about it because it’s really changing the way we raise money and combining it with encouraging exercise and health,” Brown said. 

The PTO raises money to support school events such as field trips for each grade and to buy library books and also warm winter clothing for children in need. 

Registration is open until the morning of the race. The cost is $10 for 5k race participants and $5 for the kids fun run. A $20 family package is also available. Prizes will be awarded for the top three male and female racers and for all children who participate. 

Runners can register at 9 a.m. the school, 170 Main St. The race starts at 10 a.m. Online registration is also available at www.back40timing.com.

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