Melvin Brooke and Sandra handing out blankets (Courtesy photo)

By Demetrius Dillard
Special to the AFRO

The eighth annual “Rock Your Socks” Health Care for the Homeless 5K run was a day of generous giving, fun and friendly competition held on the frigid morning of Nov. 6 at Patterson Park.

Community members, local organizations, Healthcare for the Homeless (HCH) officials and volunteers and event sponsors gathered not only to participate in the 5K run activities but to support HCH’s mission of providing health care services to the less fortunate and reducing homelessness in Baltimore.

In previous years, the Rock Your Socks 5K has occurred in a variety of locations, most recently being held at Lake Montebello before its first time at Patterson Park. Last year’s fundraising run was virtual due to pandemic concerns and restrictions, HCH president and CEO Kevin Lindamood said.

Participants had the option of registering for the race in advance for $30 while same-day registrants paid $40. Altogether, there were a few more than 300 participants who either ran, walked or supported the charity event in some form.

The event’s fundraising goal was said to be $67,000 but donors were able to raise $76,500.

“We exceeded our fundraising goal and I think we have achieved our goal of community,” Lindamood told the AFRO.

“We’ve got clients from Health Care for the Homeless here, staff, supporters, every financial sponsor brought a team with them to run. So it’s an uplifting community event here.”

ERP International, a health, science and technology company based in Laurel, is one of the primary sponsors for HCH. Domino was the other lead sponsor for the event.

Melvin Petty, ERP International’s CEO and co-founder, was thrilled to have been partnering with HCH for three years.

“It’s a great pleasure to be able to give back to the homeless community, and as you know having access to healthcare is a key factor to life longevity,” said Petty, who participated in the ‘Fun Mile’ which happened aside from the 3.1-mile run.

“We’re excited about being a part of this. A core part of our business is healthcare, about 70 percent of our company is in the healthcare space and certainly our goal is to make a difference, transform our environments, transform our communities and sponsoring events. Not only sponsoring, but participating makes a difference as well.”

Aside from the community bonding, laughter and vibrant activities, the Rocks Your Socks 5K can also be an eye-opening experience for those with certain preconceived notions about someone who’s experienced homelessness. 

“How can we look at things like health care and housing, not as marketing commodities, but as fundamental human rights? And in order to achieve that, it’s not just about working on the policy level, it’s about changing public perception. Changing hearts and minds,” Lindamood said. 

“I think when people are running in a race like this alongside someone who’s experienced homelessness before, perceptions can change. That’s the long-term impact of an event like this.” 

Vendor booths and tables were set up around the registration area for people to patronize. Charm City Run donated 60 pairs of shoes for HCH clients so they could participate in the 5K run. Following the race was an award ceremony, conducted by Lindamood.

Awards were presented in different categories. The top fundraising team and top individual fundraiser were announced, then the top runners were announced by age group. Lastly, the “Golden Sock Award” was given to the participant with the most decorative socks.

A cool down yoga session was offered to runners as the event concluded. Patrick Dantzer was the race’s fastest runner, finishing with a time of 17:43.

“It was great. It was a good course, it was sort of a hard course but it was good, and everybody was friendly and excited, and we had a great time,” said Dantzer, a nearby resident of Patterson Park.

After contemplating for a while, Dantzer and his wife decided the morning of the race to register, knowing it was for a worthy cause.

“That was what pushed us to actually come out here,” he said. “We were debating it, and knowing it was for a good cause is what made us come out and hopefully these funds can help continue to provide good health care to people who are in need.”

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