The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

April 14, 2014

Joining the herd: Chick-fil-A Connect Run draws record number of entrants

Proceeds to benefit Athens-based adoption ministry

— Racers in cow-inspired costumes, first-time participants in tutus and dozens of adoptive families filled downtown Athens on a bright and sunny Saturday during the Chick-fil-A Connect Run.

A record 452 runners and walkers turned out for the 5K, 10K and 1-mile races, embarking on a route packed with steady inclines that started at the Limestone County Courthouse and traveled along West Washington, West Hobbs and Market streets.

April Seay, 41, of Athens thrust her arms triumphantly as she crossed the finish line, completing her first-ever 10K in a field of 88 competitors in just over one hour.

“I’m exhausted,” said a smiling Seay. “I had run several 5Ks before, but this was just a personal goal of mine. I wanted to finish under an hour, but I’ll take it.”

Another first-time participant, Phyllis Hicklen, 47, of Fayetteville, Tenn., finished the crowded 5K, which drew 332. Hicklen said she decided to enter after browsing race listings in the Tennessee Valley and learning the race would also have a spirit winner.

“I knew I couldn’t win the 5K but I thought I could go for the spirit award,” said Hicklen, whose race ensemble included a lavender-and-black tulle tutu and a bovine print T-shirt.

According to award ceremony officials, Tammy Brunton clocked in as the female 5K winner with a time of 21:57 in the 3.1-mile race, with Lauren Boyd placing second and Kristi Newton third. Blake Yarbough finished in 18:03 as the 5K overall and men’s division winner, followed by Ryan Ford in second and Andrew Snider in third place.

Complete results from all three races will be available on Tuesday at http://www.connectrace.net.

For the third straight year, the event benefited the nonprofit Bridge of Hope Adoption Ministry, which was founded in Athens six years ago. Athens Chick-fil-A franchise owner Matthew Kyle is an adoptive father of 2-year-old Addie, who was born in China.

Bridge of Hope has assisted 39 families since its inception, with board members ineligible for funds raised through the Connect Run and other private fundraising sources.

“We wanted to help adoptive families because we know the financial cost and we thought God could use us through the Bridge of Hope board,” said Cindy Cundiff, a founding board member along with her husband, Steve.

The Cundiffs have four children — Blake, 19, Samantha, 17, David, 14, and Bonnie, 11. They adopted Bonnie from China, and Cindy said they are planning to return to China early next year to adopt another child.

For more information about Bridge of Hope, visit its Facebook page or website at http://www.bohadoptionministry.com.

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