On March 19, the Mint Hill Lions Club made the difficult decision to postpone the 22nd annual Lions Club 5K. The event formerly scheduled for March 28 will now take place on September 12.
Only six days prior to the emailed announcement, race director Scott Jeffers had hoped the Lions Club would be able to carry on with additional safety measures in place to safeguard against the spread of germs. “We have evaluated that our event is slightly lower risk, mostly because it is happening outside and does not involve prolonged indoor exposure to other people,” Jeffers wrote to participants on March 13. “With a resolve to serve the charitable needs of our community and also care for the health of our club members and our supporters, we will carefully consider the matter and respond.”
But things continued to change rapidly, necessitating closures of schools and restaurant dining rooms and limiting public gatherings to 100 and then 50 people. As North Carolina confirmed the state’s first case of community spread, it became clear that it would be impossible to hold the race as planned.
“This was obviously not an easy decision by both Town Hall and the Lions Club,” said Jeffers. “In light of the many restrictions on public gatherings for the C-19 virus, we feel this is the prudent course.”
For the rescheduled race, Julian Venable and Lloyd Austin will take over as race directors. “Both of these Lions have a wealth of valuable event experience and are just what the doctor ordered to move this event over its new finish line,” assures Jeffers.
The annual 5K is an important part of the Lions Club’s mission to support the visually impaired. Their work dates back to the club’s founding over a century ago in 1917. At a time when many viewed the blind as incapable of being educated, supporting themselves or living independently, the Lions created jobs for the blind and provided vision screenings in schools.
Their mission took new shape in 1925 when Helen Keller (accompanied by her teacher Anne Sullivan) addressed 7500 Lions gathered for their annual convention at Cedar Point. “I appeal to you, Lions, you who have your sight, your hearing, you who are strong and brave and kind,” said Keller. “Will you not constitute yourself Knights of the Blind in my crusade against darkness?” Keller’s words became a rallying cry for the Lions, who were henceforth energized to do more for the blind and visually impaired.
A 22-year tradition in Mint Hill, the Lions Club 5K has changed considerably since the late 90s. Jeffers remembers the first race he participated in when he joined the club in 1999 with 20-25 runners trekking down Bain School Road and back. Last year, 177 people ran. This year, the race may take place in the fall, but the core of the Lions Club 5K will remain the same: every cent earned through the race will go straight into the Lions Club project account.
“The Mint Hill Lions Club thanks you for your patience and your understanding regarding this postponement,” Jeffers told participants and sponsors. “We look forward to turning this into a big turnaround success for the club and also for the community.
For updates on the The Mint Hill Lions Club 5K, visit www.runsignup.com/Race/NC/MintHill/MintHillLionsClub5K.