An estimated 230 runners participated in the second annual Tom LaMonica Memorial 5K Trail Run last Saturday, helping to raise more than $5,000 for the Genesee Valley Outdoor Learning Center in Parkton, Md.
The race is run on a 350-acre farm owned by Tom and Jane LaMonica. It began four years ago as a way to help finance the outdoor programs run by the learning center, a nonprofit organization that offers summer camps and adventure activities for children and adults.
The facilitators at the farm are trained to choose a combination and progression of activities that address the goals, talents and abilities of each group that participates in the programs held at Genesee Valley.
The center’s staff wanted to use the farm for the race because it wanted to get people out to see the property and get the community interested in the programs and land, said business manager and widow, Jane LaMonica.
When Tom LaMonica, owner and founder of Genesee Valley, unexpectedly died last fall, the staff decided to rename the race after him to commemorate his life. They said that this was the most successful year yet.
“You feel like you are part of something huge, and that is a gift he [Tom LaMonica] passed on to everyone here today,” said Christi Kramer, the director of the learning center.
Kramer remembers the first race having about 30 runners who were mostly staff and family. It has been amazing to see how much the race has grown in just over three years, she said.
The race is 3.1 miles through the fields and forests of the farm, which is located on both sides of Rayville Road and is used for the outdoor programs. The terrain includes rocks, sticks, hills and small creeks. Participant Pat MacNabb, a teacher at Hereford Middle School, said the race was challenging for such a short distance.
Kramer said that the people who knew LaMonica hear his encouragement in their heads while they run the difficult course. It is a powerful motivator, she added.
Most of the participants either knew Tom or the family in some way. When asked to describe LaMonica, Kramar said, “Supportive, engaging, inspiring and having passion that was truly contagious.”
Twenty-two-year-old Mark Kauffman finished in first place. He went to school with LaMonica’s oldest daughter Jackie and grew up in Parkton, Maryland, but now lives in North Carolina. He just happened to be in town this weekend and decided to participate in the event. He said it was a difficult course, but that he will continue to come back because he loves the challenge.
“I’ll be 75 and still running this race and supporting the family and farm,” said Anne Ensor, Hereford High School lacrosse coach. She said this is her favorite race because it’s in the woods, it’s cross country and she gets to see the beautiful property and animals.
The family and staff at Genesee Valley plan to have the race for many years to come with hopes that each year it will grow bigger than the year before.
“Tom wanted to inspire people to build community, and that shines through everyone here today,” said Kramar.