Runners, walkers get it done for New Opportunities of Greater Meriden

Saturday, April 9, 2016
Meriden Record Journal
Waterbury, CT

Maloney High School junior Frederick Antier participated in the Walk for Warmth 5K Saturday, and he was on a mission.

“I just want to run,” Antier said. “I’m trying to beat my coach.”

It was an ambitious goal for the 17 year old, especially since his assistant track coach is Derek Destefano, a well-known runner from Meriden who regularly wins city road races.

On Saturday, Antier had a strong showing, but still found himself chasing Destefano, who led the pack and placed first — again.

While Meriden’s Walk for Warmth event is in its 27th year, this is only the event’s third annual certified 5K road race. Destefano also placed first in 2014 and 2015.

In addition to the 5K race, Walk for Warmth also features a 3K walk. On Saturday, both the race and the walk began and ended at First Congregational Church on Colony Street. Walk for Warmth is the only walk or run that goes through downtown Meriden, said event organizer Dona Ditrio, director of regional and employment programs for New Opportunities.

Walk for Warmth is a fundraising event for New Opportunities of Greater Meriden, an agency that serves residents in Meriden, Wallingford, Southington, and Berlin, and proceeds from the event will help the agency provide emergency heating assistance to residents who are facing financial hardship. The money helps jumpstart energy payments, Ditrio said.

“It’s a fun community event,” she said, adding that Meriden officials, businesses, and organizations are supportive of Walk for Warmth and do so much to help the city’s low income residents.

Several elected officials did go to Saturday’s event to support the cause. A few ran in the race; others cheered on the participants. State Sen. Dante Bartolomeo, D-Meriden, was at the starting line as the horn sounded.

As Donna Destefano, of Meriden, waited for her son to cross the finish line, she clutched a bottle of Pepsi. She said she attends all of Derek Destefano’s races, and he takes a sip of Pepsi before each one.

“I’ve been going since he ran in high school,” Donna Destefano said. “I have to have the camera. I’m not bragging, but he wins most of them. He works for it.”

Derek Destefano is a graduate of Platt High School and crossed the finish line at 18:07. That’s two seconds better than last year and his personal best for the Walk for Warmth race.

“Good job,” his mother told him as he caught his breath. “You are fast dude,” a fellow runner shouted.

The first female to cross the finish line Saturday was Sherri Odell, of Litchfield, who ran the course in 20:19. This was Odell’s first time competing in the Walk for Warmth 5K, and she signed up to help fulfill her goal of running races in all 169 Connecticut towns.

“I’ve actually never been to Meriden before,” Odell said.


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