UNIVERSITY PARK -- Fourteen local organizations that aid needy children have teamed up to put on a 5K race and Fun Run Saturday at Nathan Benderson Park.
Partners led by the nonprofit Bridge A Life have joined forces on the "Superhero 5-K Run/Walk" to help 1,300 children in the child-welfare system of Manatee, Sarasota and DeSoto counties, organizers said.
"It's just to create awareness for the need for good foster parents, guardian ad litems, and just people out there who should be foster parents who haven't taken that step," explained Danny Jones, Bridge A Life's president.
"We need 100 foster homes in the three counties," said Kristen Kandel, recruitment specialist for the Safe Children Coalition, agencies that provide child welfare services under contract with the Florida Department of Children and Families.
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Slated to speak following the run is Mitchivena Tresalus, 18, of Bradenton, who spent many years in shelters, group homes and with foster families.
"I was asked to talk about my experience while in foster care, and share a little bit of my background and life story," said Tresalus, who now lives independently and is attending State College of Florida.
Asked to sum up her talk, she replied, "We are kids, too; we need love, too."
The "Superhero" theme works well for youngsters and those who care for them,
such as caseworkers and guardians, Jones said.
"There are never enough foster families to take in these kids and what happens is they have to put them in shelters," he added.
"We have four shelters in Manatee and Sarasota, or we have to ship them out of the area," said Jones.
"It's a pretty sad situation," he said. "Events like this let people know even though you don't see kids are having a rough time, it doesn't mean they don't need help; they all need a strong family to help them."
Foster families step in if abuse, abandonment or neglect has been substantiated, and there are no immediate family members able to raise the child, officials said.
Along with the run, which starts at 8:30 a.m., the event will feature food, costumes, T-shirts and raffle prizes, including a $250 New Balance gift certificate.
Over four years, the event outgrew its previous venue at Bradenton's G.T. Bray Park, and was moved to the new multi-sport center at Benderson Park, 5851 Nathan Benderson Circle, Sarasota, Jones said.
"We want to create a buzz about foster care in our area," said Jones. "We always end up with a couple of families because of this event."
Among partners in the event are the Tampa Bay lightning; the Florida Baptist Children's Homes; the Guardian Ad Litem Program; Safe Children's Coalition; the Manatee County Foster & Adoptive Parent Association, and several churches.
Late registration Saturday is available. Visit active.com
Sara Kennedy, University Parkway reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on twitter@sarawrites.