By James Tabafunda
Northwest Asian Weekly
Dozens of long-distance fun runs and walks take place throughout the year in the Pacific Northwest, each focused on a different cause or theme, as well as set in different geographical locations. Ethnic diversity in participation has been limited until now, and Seattle-based International Community Health Services (ICHS) is leading the effort for change.
The ICHS Foundation is organizing its first Lunar New Year 5K on Feb. 7 at the Mercer Slough Nature Park in Bellevue.
The flat, 3.1-mile course for individual walkers and runners, families, and leashed pets is made up of the park’s soft-surface trails, shaded pathways, and wooden boardwalks. It is not baby stroller-friendly. Participants will be timed and can enjoy a water station at the halfway point and food and beverages near the finish line.
Two years ago, there was “no Asian-themed race in the region … there’s a void there,” said Ron Chew, ICHS Foundation executive director. The organization began considering different locations for its first 5K, which will begin with a lion dance performance. Race photographer Sherwin Eng of Seattle will be donating his services.
“He went to school with [slain community activist] Donnie Chin and is doing this in honor of Donnie,” Chew said.
The ICHS Foundation, he says, selected “a contained area like the Mercer Slough Nature Park,” one “that we could work in, and so, this seemed to [be] better logistically.” The park is the largest — more than 320 acres — fresh-water wetland on Lake Washington and with a habitat for water lilies, as well as ducks and swallows in the summer.
“We also were hoping that this would provide some visibility for the [ICHS] Bellevue clinic (opened in 2014) to support ICHS and the work we do with the vulnerable populations we serve.”
Christine Loredo, ICHS Foundation development specialist, said, “The big thing was to expand our community outreach [with] community events outside of Seattle since we, ourselves, expanded our clinic reach outside of Seattle.”
The ICHS is a nonprofit community health center that provides affordable health services in about 50 different languages to over 21,000 patients at seven different locations, including Shoreline. Last month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services named it a National Quality Leader.
Since 1973, ICHS’s mission has been to provide “culturally and linguistically appropriate health services to improve the health of Asian Pacific Islanders and the broader community.”
According to the 5K’s website, “Every year, the ICHS provides nearly $1 million in charity care.”
“ICHS’s inaugural 5K is an exciting opportunity to raise crucial funds to provide affordable, high-quality care for our patients,” said ICHS Foundation events specialist Chris Potter.
“We’re a health care provider, and becoming physically active and encouraging people to be physically active is a good thing,” Chew explained as another reason for the creation of the 5K, which has also been named a Spotlight Race on the Grand Prix Series of Silver Strider Magazine (for walkers and runners over age 50).
He said, “We’ll be giving out award ribbons, three deep in each of the age groups.”
The Lunar New Year is one of the most important holidays for many in the API community, especially those of Vietnamese, Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean, Japanese, Tibetan, and Mongolian descent. The year of the monkey starts Feb. 8, the day after the 5K. Loredo pointed out, “Monkey-themed costumes, we could see a bunch of those.” The ICHS Foundation will give awards to those deemed best.
One challenge for the Lunar New Year 5K on Feb. 7 is that it’s on the same day as Super Bowl 50, between the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos.
“We decided to take a chance and basically market it as an event that you can do prior to the game, so with your exercise in, you can enjoy the rest of your Super Bowl Sunday celebration guilt-free,” Loredo said.
Advance registrations, so far, have been coming in, and the ICHS Foundation started planning its next 5K last month.
Loredo said, “At some point in the future, we would love to have a series of API-themed race events like this one.”
Potter added, “It is a perfect representation of ICHS today. We are an action-oriented group of staff, patients, and community members coming together to improve our health and having a lot of fun along the way.” (end)
For more information about the ICHS Lunar New Year 5K, visit ichs.com/5k.
James Tabafunda can be reached at email@example.com.