Inaugural 20K race for youth scholarships

LaShante Keys and David Campbell

BY ALLEN A. BUCHANAN, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG – More than 300 people lined up Saturday, June 15 in Poynter Park to participate in the inaugural Downtown Community Race to raise money for minority student scholarship.

Spectators watched 73 teams made up of business groups, families and friends and more than 62 individuals sweat their way around the Dali Museum, Albert Whitted Airport, the soon to be pier and back to Poynter Park on Third Street South.

LaShante Keys and his non-profit organization Community EFX, Inc., whose mission is to develop innovative programs to bring awareness to and help eliminate educational and health disparities in the black community, came up with the idea to increase scholarship opportunities for local high school graduates and those struggling while in college.

“Eighty-five percent of monies raised from the event are going to scholarships for students in Pinellas County whether they are going to college or going to technical school,” said Keys.

As of now, the only criteria for receiving a scholarship is that you must be a minority. Keys feels that students with higher GPAs have other opportunities of earning money, so his organization would like to help the student who is struggling.

“So we’re looking at those students who really need to stay in school by any means necessary, students who are already working two jobs and maintaining a 2.7 GPA. So we’re looking at any student that has a great story.”

And although he didn’t raise as much money as he’d like, Keys thinks the next race will rake in the big bucks because he has a lot of great sponsors stepping up to the plate.

“I think you have to get through that first year,” he said. “We’re having great conversations already about 2020, so I’m positive we’ll be able to get some really good sponsors next year.”

Not only was the 20K, which is about 12.5 miles, created to raise scholarship dollars for the youth, it was also developed to raise awareness for the importance of living healthy and being fit.

With the team concept, participants hold each other accountable. They trained together and made sure teammates weren’t sneaking out for late night McDonald’s runs.

“So we just want to make sure that it’s a team concept, everybody can come together and just hold everybody accountable for their health,” said Keys. “We want to live longer, but also we want to enjoy the good foods, but you got to put some work in.”

Keys made sure healthcare professionals were on hand to answer questions and provide insightful educational resources.

“And so we just try to make sure that we’re living a better lifestyle, especially when it comes to our health because unfortunately a lot of African Americans really don’t work out as we should,” he said, adding that walking is one of the easiest forms of exercise.

With a vigorous social media campaign and old-fashion begging, Keys’ first race saw participants coming as far off as Washington, D.C., Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Sarasota and a whole team from Atlanta.

“I was out there like Barack Obama just campaigning and saying, ‘Hey, can you support? Can you support?’ And for every 100 people I talked to, I may have gotten two or three yeses,” he explained.

Keys is so grateful for the sponsors who took a chance on his fledgling event that he hopes to eventually bring thousands to the downtown area for a race to end educational and health disparities.  This year’s sponsors included Pinellas Technical College, My Spine & Joint, Dr. Daniel Wubneh, the St. Petersburg Chapter of the Links, Inc. and Serenity Village.

For more information about donations and or sponsorship opportunities for 2020, please email Keys at Downtown20KRelayRace@gmail.com.

Click here to see how the runners placed.

To reach Allen Buchanan, email abuchanan@theweeklychallenger.com

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