Saturday, over 100 runners turned out in the warm weather to run and raise money for three programs that are all interconnected through the late Toby Pennels. Toby, a veteran, was known for his support of veteran issues. He also was an RSU14 school board member and felt education was important, hence the Toby Pennels Memorial Scholarship Fund and his children ran for the Windham cross country team and one of the organizers of the race event, Jeff Riddle, is the coach of the cross country team.
“The Toby’s Dream Project Race Event met its goal of honoring veterans through offering more than a race. It was a morning of community celebration of our veterans and Toby Pennels; all the while raising funds for three very important programs and organizations,” said Riddle.
Over $3,000 was raised for the three beneficiaries between race entries and the raffle for a paddle board, which was donated by Kittery Trading Post. Marisa Pizzuto Juttras won the paddle board.
The winners of the races were for the 5K Ben Foster from Gorham with a time of 17:36.10. The top female finisher, in fourth place overall, was Linda Berry from Windham with a time of 20:43.50. The top finisher in the mile race was Garrett Crossman, 9, from Windham, who finished in 10:11.64.
There were a lot of highlights for the second annual event. This year the third grade chorus sang. “Guitar in hand, kids in red matching shirts, priceless, and so respectable of our veterans as well as a great way to kick off the celebration,” said Riddle.
Participants and spectators were given the opportunity to write to a soldier presently ensuring our freedoms and the opportunity to speak with a veteran.
Toby’s widow Brenda Pennels and their daughter Taylor were in attendance, Jordan Pennels sent a video from Mexico thanking those at the event and wishing them luck from afar.
“The most powerful moment was where we held a moment of silence to reflect on the day, the upcoming race, Toby, and held a bell ceremony honoring each branch of our military: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard,” said Riddle.
This year, Suzie Brockelbank came up with the idea to do a “Blue Mile to remind runners at a pivotal and exhausting part of their race to remember those soldiers who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms, not something to take lightly. So as our runners ran by and saw a sign representing each branch of the military, with a cadet holding a flag next to it in its honor, I can only imagine the emotion it stirred to motivate our racers to push on through their race,” said Riddle.
“Most importantly, knowing we honored veterans, Toby Pennels and his family, and gave our participants an event to remember, not just a race to run in. All the while generating funds to ‘Improve the Position (IYP)’ of very important programs and organizations that create opportunity for others,” he concluded.