Megan's Mudder raises funds and awareness of cerebral palsy

Submitted photo Special guests (from left) Megan, Taylor and Kira led the official start of Megan's Mudder, the third annual 5K at Frieden's Church, Shartlesville.
Item photo by Kolleen Long Taylor Krick (left) and Kira Naftzinger were guests of honor at the third annual Megan's Mudder, May 31 at Frieden's Church, Shartlesville. The event raised awareness of cerebral palsy as well as funds for the two girls, who have been diagnosed with CP.

Green-clad runners criss-crossed the grounds of Frieden’s Church, Shartlesville, on Saturday, May 31, for the third annual Megan’s Mudder. The 5K course raised $4,000 to benefit two local girls diagnosed with cerebral palsy: Taylor Krick, a fourth-grader at Conrad Weiser Elementary, and Kira Naftzinger, who will graduate from Tulpehoken High School this week.

“I like that we got to start the race,” Taylor said. “Thank you to everyone.”

Both girls had many family members present at the Mudder. Taylor’s grandparents, Barry and Judy Sohn, sold awareness bracelets at one table. The bright rubber jewelry included green bands for cerebral palsy, as well as bracelets for Tourette syndrome (last year’s cause) and Hodgkin’s lymphoma (the first Mudder’s cause).

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“It’s good to know that there are people that care about disabled children,” Judy said as she surveyed the scene, “people that will help give these kids a fighting chance.”

Kira’s sister, DeAnna Naftzinger, manned a table displaying pictures of Kira ranging from her premature birth to a childhood including love and laughter plus adapted chairs, multiple surgeries and other interventions. “It’s neat to have so many people come together to help,” Deanna said as she straightened the display. “It’s just awesome.”

In all, about 40 volunteers helped run the 2014 Megan’s Mudder. Of these, 15 were teens and children from Frieden’s congregation.

“The most challenging thing about organizing this year’s event was getting everything done in time,” Julia Slifer, one of the teens, explained. “You always feel like you have plenty of time, but then as the weeks tick on, and you get down to the final days, it gets a little stressful to make sure it all gets done.”

“Advertising the event was the most stressful to me,” added Chloe Grogg. “I want people to know about it, and I always feel like we could use more advertising.”

The teens agreed that all the work and stress were worth it when the race day arrived. Both Chloe and Julia loved seeing good people working to make a difference in others’ lives, and appreciated that the event both raised awareness of CP and encouraged Kira and Taylor personally.

“My favorite part of the day was when the three girls started the race, Megan [namesake of the event and the first year’s recipient], Kira, and Taylor, and how they bonded,” Chloe said.

Julia agreed. “My favorite part of the day was seeing the smiles on Kira’s and Taylor’s faces when they saw all the people that were there to support them.”

A bounce house was set up for youngsters, and another area held colorful gift baskets, to be won through a ticket raffle. “A lot of our grandmas and moms pulled all these together,” said Stacey Slifer, one of the parent organizers from Frieden’s Church. In addition, she noted, many local businesses donated food, gift cards and other items for the event.

A total of 64 runners, ranging in age from two to 57, participated with the help of Pretzel City Sports, whose staff was on hand to time participants as they crossed the finish line. Since the course included grassy and muddy areas, times are generally longer than 5K courses set on flat roadways.

“A mudder is a different kind of thing,” Pretzel City’s Deb Keegan said. “It’s not as competitive. The idea is just to finish and have a good time.”

“It was a combination of trails,” Stacey said of the 3.1 mile route, “including our church’s meditation trail, and Taylor’s Trail [named for Taylor Seitzinger, a Hamburg teen who died in a car accident five years ago] and a few alleys in Shartlesville. There was one part of our meditation trail that was a double lap. It was the muddiest part!”

The fastest overall time for the 2014 Megan’s Mudder went to Lisha Kuhns, a Frieden’s church member, Hamburg resident and mother of two. All winners and their times were posted at www.pretzelcitysports.com beginning Monday afternoon, June 2.