7th annual McKenzie’s Run to be held Nov. 19


The 7th annual McKenzie’s Run will take place Saturday, Nov. 19 at EverBank Field.

Proceeds from the annual 5K run/walk and 1-mile fun run benefit the McKenzie Noelle Wilson Foundation, an organization formed to honor the legacy of 15-year-old McKenzie Wilson, a Ponte Vedra resident and Bolles School student who died in 2010 from a sudden illness.

Wilson was passionate about helping others, which became the basis of the foundation.

McKenzie’s Run began in 2010. Since then, the event has drawn ever more participants, with more than 3,800 participants in 2015.

“Every year we’re trying to hit that target goal and make an even bigger splash in Jacksonville,” foundation volunteer Tori Pappas said. “We’re hoping to hit around 4,000 this year.”

Pappas, who has been heavily involved with the race since its inception in 2010, was close friends with Wilson.

“The foundation has been such a special thing to carry on with her passing,” Pappas said. “We’re able to carry on her legacy of just making an impact locally and globally as well; it’s been a nice way to carry out her kindness. Even though she’s not here with us, she’s here in spirit.”

McKenzie’s Run is the foundation’s biggest fundraiser, with proceeds going to the foundation’s local and global efforts.

“The run is so important because it helps get the word out about what we are doing and share McKenzie’s story,” MNWF Director Adrian Gibbs said.

The run, which will wind through the streets of downtown Jacksonville, will begin this year on Gator Bowl Boulevard and end as usual at EverBank Field. But new this year, runners will have the chance to make a lap around the field and see themselves cross the finish line on the stadium’s enormous video screens.

Having a chance to be on the actual football field at the stadium is a momentous event, Gibbs stated.

“Not many people in Jacksonville have the opportunity to be on the field, so I think that is definitely something that sets us apart,” Gibbs said.

The 1-mile fun run will begin at 9:30 a.m., followed by the 5K run/walk at 10 a.m. Jacksonville Jaguar Head Coach Gus Bradley will again serve as captain, kicking off the run.

The registration fee for the 5K is $25 until Nov. 14, $30 until Nov. 18 and $35 day of race. The 1-mile fun run is $10. Teams of three or more people for the 5K run/walk are $15 per participant, $20 per participant day of race. Register online at mckenziesrun.org. Online registration closes Nov. 16.

Race day activities will include live entertainment and games, a photo booth, an appearance by Jaxson de Ville and autograph signing by the ROAR cheerleaders. There will be a post-run celebration with an awards ceremony for the top male and female finishers in each category.

McKenzie Noelle Wilson Foundation

The MNWF is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping foster youth’s potential. The organization's outreach programs -- both local and international -- focus on youth development. Youth are encouraged to volunteer, get involved, grow spiritually and participate in random acts of kindness.

In 2014, the foundation made a commitment to donate $1 million over five years for after-school tutoring and mentoring, teen development and early learning programs for youth at McKenzie’s Academic Resource Centers (MARC) in Jacksonville. The centers offer peer-to-peer online tutoring for at-risk youth.

The organization also encourages kids to become involved with McKenzie Clubs, designed to unite students across Jacksonville through volunteerism at charity events. Currently, McKenzie Clubs have been established at Bolles High School, Bolles Middle School, Episcopal High School, Ponte Vedra High School, Providence High School, Atlantic Coast High School, Fletcher High School, MARC at Portside and MARC at Countryside.

Internationally, the foundation has partnered with the Okoa Refuge, an orphanage in Uganda, to build new dormitories for the children. The dormitories are known as Amaka ga McKenzie, which translates to The McKenzie Home.