Light Up The Night 5K Lights Up The Night For 7th Year
by James Coulter
17-year-old Killian Wright has participated in the annual Light Up The Night 5K in Downtown Winter Haven for five years. He and his friends have been running together for the past three years, and they enjoy it every year.
“It is a fun experience every time,” he said. “It is a good way to get in shape, and it is good to get out with the activities in the community.”
Killian currently attends All-Saints Academy in Winter Haven as a junior. He is also an active member of the Junior League of Winter Haven, for which this race is a fundraiser. He assists with many of the club’s projects, including the mobile food pantry.
He appreciates giving back to the local community by participating in the Junior League and raising money for the organization at Light Up The Night. If anything else, it allows him and his friends to get out of the house for a stretch, especially during these uncertain times.
“I look forward to running and competing with my friends,” he said. “It is a fun for all ages in the community, it is a great way to bring people together.”
For the past seven years, Light Up The Night has been living up to its title by lighting up the night of Downtown Winter Haven. Every year, hundreds of runners, joggers, and walkers don their glow sticks and race through the downtown area near Lake Silver.
Due to the current COVID-19 crisis, special precautions were taken to help protect public health and safety. At the starting line near BB&T, participants were required to space out on places set for them marked with chalk on the pavement. They were also required to socially distance while they congregated outside the bank.
Before and after the event, participants and guests alike could hang out at Grove Roots for food served from food trucks, cold drinks served at the brewery, and live musical entertainment provided by local musician Hunter Smith.
Even amid these uncertain times, more than 400 people attended the event, many of them willing to venture out in the open air after nearly a year of being required to stay indoors and wear a mask.
“I think people are ready to run and experience an outdoor activity because they were stuck inside due to COVID,” said Amy Jahna. “It has been very difficult to play out this year, but we have our COVID plan, and we are taking all of our safety precautions to make sure our runners are in the safest position that they can be in.”
Proceeds from the event will go towards funding the Junior League of Winter Haven and its many community projects. Its Mobile Food Pantry, in partnership with Feeding Tampa Bay, provides food to the local community, while Stork Pile offers essential materials to new and expecting mothers.
Jahna is a teacher from All Saints Academy. She had 40 students running that evening, including Killian. She appreciates her children helping out their local community with events such as this.
“I cannot wait for them to go across the finish line,” he said. “I am excited to see everybody and see them get their run on.”
Lisa Davis, President of the Junior League, has been with the organization for the past ten years. She loves being able to see the community come out, have some fun, and raise funds for her organization and its many endeavors.
While she was initially worried about the turnout that evening, what with these uncertain times, she was thoroughly pleased with how many people were willing to come out in a safe, socially-distanced manner.
“We have been very lucky,” she said. “This has been a popular event. I think early on, we were weary like most people, but this was the highest turnout we ever had.”