Event raises college savings funds for former foster children
The West Virginia State Treasurer’s Office is partnering with several child welfare organizations this year to host the fourth annual SMART5.29K run/walk Saturday, May 19 in Charleston’s East End, which establishes SMART529 college savings accounts for West Virginia children adopted from foster care.
The race begins 9 a.m. at Appalachian Power Park’s third base entrance and winds along Piedmont Road to the State Capitol and back. Runners and walkers will go the distance of 5.29K, which is approximately 3.29 miles.
Event partners this year include Mission West Virginia, Children’s Home Society, Braley and Thompson, KVC, NECCO and Pressley Ridge.
Registration is $30 until May 16. New this year, children 17 and under can register for the main race for FREE online. Children 12 and under are encouraged to participate in a FREE Kids Fun Run before the main race. Go to www.wvtreasury.com to register for all events.
“Statistics show that only about 20 percent of foster youth who graduated high school attend college. With this event, we want to play an active role in changing that number,” said West Virginia State Treasurer John Perdue.
Over the last three years, the event has raised $37,000 in college savings funds for 31 adopted children. Awards go into the children’s SMART529 college savings accounts. Race proceeds come from entry fees, donations and sponsorships.
Terry Dunford, 37, and wife Tiffany benefited last year from money raised, as adopted son Tanner received a $1,200 award through a selection process administered by Mission West Virginia’s Frameworks program. This year, the Dunfords will serve as an ambassador family for the SMART5.29K.
“It’s amazing to think of all the donations and hard work,” Dunford said. “Everybody has partnered together to invest in these kids and their futures. Treasurer Perdue’s office doesn’t have to get involved in this. He did it on his own. He saw the opportunity and made it a public issue. Now there’s a race for the kids.”
Tiffany Dunford was diagnosed with endometrial cancer about 10 years ago and could not have children so the couple turned to adoption. She is now cancer-free, however, and helping Tanner past early developmental problems.
The Dunfords were caring for two-week-old Tanner, born to a drug-addicted mother, and two girls under the age of two when outside circumstances took the girls to another adoption placement. The couple won Tanner’s placement within 10 months, a greatly accelerated pace from the norm.
“I do think everything happens for a reason,” Dunford said. “When I walked in the NICU I immediately knew that first bed was where he was. I knew right then and there that was our kid.”
Dunford urges people to register or make electronic donations to help more children like Tanner. Go to www.wvtreasury.com. Click on the SMART5.29K run/walk logo for more information.