WESTERVILLE, OH (WCMH) — Some folks chose to hunker down for the coldest day of the New Year. Others got out and hit the pavement for a 3.1 mile run in very blustery weather.
A sold-out crowd of 1,500 people chose to run or walk in single digit temperatures for a good cause.
The event, sponsored by OhioHealth, is called “First on the First.” It’s a run-walk through Westerville for a healthy start to the new year, while raising money to treat children with Cerebral Palsy, like Luke Billings and Mia.
“It is very cold but I’m going to do my best,” said 13-year-old Luke. His mother and father said Luke was born with cerebral palsy. Their non-profit organization called the Luke Billings Foundation is raising money for other children with cerebral palsy.
“I think it is a celebration of a gift that we are able to walk, move, speak and eat and there is not a day that goes by that we try not to take that for granted,” said Wendy Billings.
Luke spoke to the large crowd before the race.
“I’m going to walk this like a champion,” he said as the crowd inside the Westerville Community Center cheered.
He also counted down the race kickoff and walked with a relative in the race.
“3, 2, 1, Go guys enjoy yourselves and be safe,” the announcer said.
Mia’s father carried her through the finishing gate to large cheers.
It was nine degrees at the start of the race, with a good snow cover and a steady breeze, and folks could not have been happier out in the elements.
“Giving hope and smiles and positivity to everybody around you, so I think it is a great day to do this,” said Wendy Billings.
“Thank you so much for coming out and spending your New Year’s morning with us. With the sun shining it feels like 7 or 8 degrees out here, “the announcer teased the runners and walkers and the crossed the starting line.
Everyone was made to feel like a winner, receiving a blanket from OhioHealth, along with a finisher’s medal and tacos from Yabo’s Tacos after the race. The official winner is the reigning high school state champion in the 5K.
“It is definitely cold out today, it takes away a little bit, but overall once you get going it is not too bad,” said Buckeye Valley High School Senior Zach Kreft. He finished the race in 16 minutes and 15 seconds, regardless of the tough weather conditions.
Todd Billings said there is no cure for Cerebral Palsy, but every penny raised go to help the children.