The SMART5.29K Run/Walk is presented by the West Virginia State Treasurer’s Office through a partnership with Mission West Virginia's Frameworks program, a nonprofit that helps find families for children waiting in foster care. The SMART5.29K raises money to establish SMART529 college savings plans for children recently adopted out of the foster care system in West Virginia.
Proceeds from the SMART5.29K are deposited into SMART529 college savings accounts. The accounts are awarded to children adopted from foster care through a selection process administered by Mission West Virginia.
2019 race hits record attendance, sponsorships
The fifth annual SMART5.29K Run/Walk set records for both participation and sponsorships. More than 140 people registered for the 2019 race, which raised nearly $28,000 to establish SMART529 accounts.
The race’s start and finish took place at Appalachian Power Park. A Kids’ Fun Run preceded the event, with little ones dashing up Smith Street. The main event kicked off at 9 a.m. with awards and refreshments following.
Who does the race help?
The Smart Start award was established as a result of the SMART5.29K to award proceeds from the race to adoptive families. Money raised is distributed equally among Smart Start award winners, which are chosen through a competitive application process administered by Mission West Virginia. The money is deposited directly into the SMART529 accounts and cannot be used for any other purpose.
Families receive their awards at a ceremony at the Clay Center in Charleston, which features lunch, ice cream and museum activities.
“We have no control over the circumstances foster children have faced prior to their removal from their biological home, but we do have control over what happens next,” wrote Stephanie and Timothy Adkins, inaugural winners of the 2015 awards. “There needs to be a concentrated effort to provide stability and instill a sense of self-worth that will allow them to believe in themselves and their abilities.”
Joanna Seigneur and husband Tim has hosted multiple foster children and adopted two. Their family actually includes three adopted children, though the older child did not come through the foster system. They are also 2016 winners of the Smart Start award.
“Having this money to start a savings account is a big deal,” Seigneur said at the time. “It’s something you always want to do but you’re not able to otherwise.”
Seigneur acknowledged that foster families receive adoption agency funds to take care of children. Ordinary expenses eat up much of it, she said. That’s why the scholarship award and accompanying dinner mean so much, she said.
“The event itself definitely was a pretty special day,” Seigneur said. “The kids didn’t understand but we had a fancy dinner, got to go the Clay Center, got to build a bear. For them it was just this day of excitement and fun but for us we’re experiencing these nice things with the kids, all the while knowing we have a college savings account we didn’t have before.”
As a fundraiser, the SMART5.29K Run/Walk relies on the generous support of many local businesses and organizations. Local radio and television companies provide exposure to the cause and increase event participation. Restaurants and organizations donate food and supplies. Sponsorships from the City of Charleston, AP Timing, and Capitol Market provide locations and services for the event.
In exchange for these services, all of our partners and sponsors receive special recognition based on their sponsorship level which may include prominent placement on the race website, posters, banners, t-shirts, and signs.
The partnership between the State Treasurer’s Office and several foster care organizations in West Virginia provides a unique opportunity to bring attention to the need for foster and adoptive families in our state. At the same time, the event helps families who have been through the foster/adoption process to “catch up” on lost savings for their children’s future education through the Smart Start awards. In the last four years, proceeds from the race contributions have provided $57,600 in Smart Start awards to 48 children.
The 2019 sponsorship drive brings that total to $85,000. A new round of Smart Start winners will be announced in August of 2019.