No Sprint for Township Residents; The Arc Fundraiser is a Marathon

On your mark, get set, go! Team Action Jackson was at the ready. In late April, 53 members of the team laced up their running shoes in West Orange and raised nearly $60,000 competing in the 20th annual Building Tomorrows 5k.

The event benefited The Arc of Essex County, which provides comprehensive services and support to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. These services ensure a lifetime of achievement with dignity and full partnership in the community.

Team Action Jackson, consisting mostly of Oak Ridge Martial Arts Academy (ORMAA) members with their friends and families, took home 12 race medals and earned second place overall in fundraising. The team was inspired by 7-year-old Roxbury resident Jackson Shulkowski, who attends a school funded by The Arc. Jackson has been involved with the organization for most of his life through early intervention services, and is now a first-grader in The Arc’s school for students with disabilities.

Jackson’s aunt, Amy Cusack, is a Jefferson resident who has been recruiting for the team since 2015. The team has tripled from 18 members into quite a presence at the 5k, with 53 Star Wars-inspired black and gold race shirts visible all over the venue on race day. The growth of Team Action Jackson is due in large part to the support of the ORMAA community and owners Katherine and Matt Van Wolput. They promote the race within the dojo to support the cause, celebrate fitness, and have fun.

Dojo Support

Many members of ORMAA’s cardio program participated in the event along with their children, other family members, and friends. “We have always supported our dojo members’ interests and causes,” says Katherine Van Wolput, who runs the dojo’s cardio program.

“Naturally, when Amy approached us about the 5k, her nephew Jackson, and the work that The Arc does, we were totally on board,” Van Wolput continues. “We have always been involved working with children and adults with special needs, so this really hit home with us. Combine a great cause with an amazing young man and top it off with fitness, and you couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day. We were honored to be a part of it.”

While the team did well in the medal count, Cusack tells The Jefferson Chronicle it consists of runners at all ability levels and is defined by its supportive nature. “We had runners finishing at various points in the race, and the thing I’m most proud of is our team’s encouragement of one another,” she says. “We had massive representation at the finish line cheering on all our runners until the very end. Everyone did so well. I’m thankful for the support of Jackson and The Arc.”

The excitement lives on even after the event. Medal winner Denise Kimball of Oak Ridge sums up her experience and reasons for participating. “Joining together with one of the most encouraging groups of people I know to support Jackson, his family, his friends, and his school is just one of the reasons I choose to run the Building Tomorrows 5k,” says Kimball. “The family-friendly atmosphere and beautiful course is an added bonus.”

Action Jackson plans to be back in action next year at the 21st annual event, and is looking to grow even larger in support of The Arc.

And the Winners Are…

Team Action Jackson took home the following medals:

Team Award #2 Fundraiser
Samantha Hatler #3 Overall Female
Casey Coleman #1 Age Group
Kristen Coleman #1 Age Group
Kathy Conway #1 Age Group
Janet Fischlein #1 Age Group
Daniel Rippey #1 Age Group
Nathan Coleman #2 Age Group
Matthew Ellis #2 Age Group
Ryan Fischlein #2 Age Group
Denise Kimball #2 Age Group
Jordan Peters #2 Age Group
Kaitlin Conway #3 Age Group

Team Action Jackson runners receive medals. (Photo provided by Amy Cusack)
Team Action Jackson runners receive medals. (Photo provided by Amy Cusack)
Team Action Jackson runners receive medals. (Photo provided by Amy Cusack)

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