Runners raise awareness for veterans issues at 5k Run

Published: Sep. 18, 2016 at 6:15 PM AKDT
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A 5k Veterans Benefit Run kicked off Sunday afternoon at Merrill Field.

The event was co-hosted by Student Veterans of UAA and YWCA's Alaska Veterans Organization for Women.

The run aims to raise money that will be go toward helping veterans in the community.

For the first time ever, Student Veterans at UAA club and YWCA's Alaska Veterans Organization for Women partnered up to host a 5k. Student Veterans at UAA, a charter of a national club says it's an event designed to benefit nearly 10 percent of the university's population.

Gary Lytle, president of Student Veterans at UAA said veterans make up about 10 percent of the university's population.

"They have the challenges of whatever they've brought back home from being deployed, whether it was in a war zone and what not so that is definitely an issue," Lytle said. "We have disabled vets that go to UAA, so they struggle with those issues as well, PTSD issues, head trauma issues, a multitude of issues that veterans can struggle with and so we like to try to help."

Jessica Limbird, a program associate at YWCA Alaska said the Alaska Veterans Organization for Women program is hoping to use money raised by the race to help women veterans find resources they need.

"We want to reach out to women veterans, but we also want to help shift the civilian sphere to view women veterans as capable, as having contributed not only in the military sector but also in the civilian sector," Limbird said.

While the field included a mix of some former military members, other non-veteran runners like Reba West participated to show support.

"I hope it does bring awareness to the club and to the other organization that has joined to make this event happen," West said.

Morgan Ekemo crossed the finish line first with a time of 19 minutes.

Ekemo said her grandfather was a military veteran and recipient of the purple heart.

Organizers of the race said they don't have a fundraising goal in mind other than to raise enough to support nonprofit groups which benefit veterans.