What better way than a 5K? – Pounding the pavement to make a difference.

Runtastic recently chatted with Ashawnda Fleming and Mihiri Pathirana from Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey to learn about how they’re engaging the community in an active way to promote “happy, healthy and safe childhoods.” Whether you’re a runner, philanthropist or non-profit employee, take a gander at how you can combine fitness activities and a good cause to make a difference!


1. Runtastics come from around the world… Take a moment to give our readers a brief overview of your non-profit organization.
Since 1979, Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey has worked to lead the state in its efforts to prevent child abuse and neglect in all of its forms and ensure happy, healthy and safe childhoods. We currently have prevention programs in every county of the state to help at-risk families provide the best care for their children. We do this by training anyone who professionally comes into contact with these families and their children. Some of our trainings are on how to work with these families to help them cope with stressors that arise because of the economy and connect them to necessary resources such as food, clothing and medical services. Our programs also work with teen parents.

2. Wonderful. And we got to know each other during the planning of your recent “Freedom Run.” How did you decide to coordinate a 5K run to raise money and awareness for your cause?
We wanted to increase awareness about the need for child abuse prevention and healthy childhoods in a fun and exciting way. What better way than a 5K? We knew that a 5K would energize people to work together to help us battle child abuse. A sporting event like this also brings awareness to the fact that proper nutrition and exercise are vital for growing children, especially since childhood obesity is on the rise in the United States. Childhood obesity can be seen as a form of neglect, which caused the formation of our Childhood Obesity program that just created a board game called, The Picnic Party. By playing this game, young children can have fun while learning about healthy nutrition.

3. What were some of the greatest successes of your effort? Any unexpected challenges or takeaways for next year?
The amount of support we received from the community was our biggest success. We were happy to see just how many people showed up on race day to run in support of the cause and learn more about how they can help. Since this was our first 5K after a number of years, we were happy with such a success! There were some unexpected challenges as far as minor issues with logistics that can easily be fixed next year.

4. Did anything about the international or local running community surprise you?
Maybe not surprise, but amaze, yes. It is always great to see how people can come together so nicely to support the healthy development of children. It is an emotional and touchy subject that people tend to steer away from, but seeing how much support we received from the members of our local community and from Runtastic, all the way in Europe, brought us such a great feeling.

5. What are Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey’s plans for the future? Do you have further fundraising or event plans in the works?
We plan to continue the fun again next year and have our 2nd Annual Freedom Run 5K – the date is still to be determined. We are in the midst of planning our 3rd Annual Footsteps for Families Walk-a-Thon, which will be held in The Outlets at Bergen Town Center on Saturday, October 5th. Registration starts at 8:00 AM and the walk starts at 9:00 AM. This is a great way for those who are not runners to come and support our mission!

6. Final comments for how active folks can make a difference with your non-profit or any non-profit.
Aside from attending our events, members of the community can help by just spreading the word about the importance of child abuse prevention. Child abuse can happen in any and every community – there are stressors that everyone faces, which can cause abuse and neglect in any household. To increase awareness, people can also host their own fundraising events, such as casino nights, movie nights, bowling parties, where they raise money in an effort to help non-profits continue their great work!

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