Although heavy rains were predicted in Sunday’s forecast, many runners were able to make it across the finish line of this year’s Purple 5K before the precipitation started.
“It’s a great turnout,” said Downtown Billings Association Executive Director Lisa Harmon. “I think we’re topping 500 today.”
The fifth annual race, which started at Grandview Park, wound through the Pioneer Park neighborhood and ended under Skypoint in Downtown Billings.
The money raised through entry fees goes to the Downtown Billings Association’s program, Spare Change for Real Change.
The program grants money to local organizations that focus on curbing homelessness in Billings.
Last year, $13,000 was raised, and four organizations in Billings received grants. The association hopes to raise more money this year.
“Our goal is to grant out $20,000,” Harmon said.
As part of the run, organizers hang informative posters, created on large pieces of cardboard, along the route. Each one gives statistics about the homeless population in Billings.
Not all participants ran this year’s race. Some rode bikes and some walked. Rob Bonnes piloted his wheelchair to the finish line.
Bonnes was at a slight disadvantage Sunday, but only because his wheelchair designed for sports was in the shop after heavy use.
“I broke my other chair,” he said.
When Bonnes isn’t completing 5K races, he plays basketball, skis and swims. He also has a trike that he operates with his arms.
“I’ve done a couple of marathons on my handcycle,” he said.
As people crossed the finish line, Mayor Tom Hanel watched near the timing booth. He said he was surprised at how large the event has become.
“I remember the very first year,” he said. “It was a pretty small group.”
The funding provided by Spare Change for Real Change has been beneficial for groups helping Billings’ most vulnerable residents, and this year’s ambitious fundraising goal will reach more people than ever.
“That’s $20,000 that didn’t exist before that can be put to good use,” Hanel said.