Once again, DeStefano’s 5K paves the Walk for Warmth way

Sunday, March 29, 2015
Meriden Record-Journal
Meriden, CT

Derek DeStefano paved the way Saturday for about 150 followers with a solitary run through downtown streets and west-side neighborhoods — his only competition was falling snowflakes in the Walk for Warmth 5k road race.

Destefano successfully defended his title after winning last year´s inaugural race, which was added to the annual walk that funds New Opportunities emergency energy assistance fund, and improved on his winning time, dropping the course record to 18:09.

More importantly, the event celebrated its 25th anniversary of helping others in need of heating assistance and reached a milestone of helping 3,400 individuals and providing an estimated $400,000 in funding through the years, according to Larry Elliott, executive director of New Opportunities.

And despite the chilly weather and snowfall that swirled around First Congregational Church, the starting line area on Colony Street, keeping the turnout somewhat smaller than recent years, Elliott said after the walk and road race he was satisfied with the gathering of participants, volunteers and public safety officials who teamed up to support the community endeavor.

“The spirit of what we do is still here,” Elliott said as participants warmed up in the assembly hall of the church for the post-race awards ceremony. “The effort that’s behind it, caring for people, so it’s always successful. We’ve got some die-hards who hang in there.”

DeStefano led a pack of 45 runners through the city, bolting into the lead and registering a wire-to-wire win. Meriden’s pre-eminent 5k runner was running alone by the time he passed the mile mark and turned onto Bradley Avenue.

“I was just trying to beat my time,” DeStefano said.

“I love my 5ks,” he said, but admitted he’s considering racing longer distances such as 10k. DeStefano completed the 5k course in a 5:51 per mile pace.

Timothy Beach, of Prospect, finished second behind DeStefano with a time of 21:20, and Christophe Griffin, of Meriden, placed. third in 21:20.

Lindsey Perotti, of Plainville, placed first in the women’s division with a time of 25:50, followed closely by Lea Crown of Meriden at 25:54. Christina Rossi was third in 26:28.

Elliott addressed a collection of walkers, runners, volunteers and public safety officials huddled inside First Congregational Church at the conclusion of the event in appreciation of their support.

“Thank you for your heart, for your caring,” Elliott said. “We really appreciate what you do.” There was a friendly competiton within the road race between the Meriden Police Department and Meriden Fire Department, with Griffin leading the way for the police team that was awarded a trophy for winning the team competition.
Elliott said the Walk for Warmth has benefited from the willingness of volunteers to staff the event, and that those individuals come through churches in the city and the clientele of New Opportunities.

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