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International Festival begins with 5K run

The Good Shepherd Catholic Church’s festivities began Saturday to raise money for a cause.

With dark clouds hanging over, the Good Shepherd Catholic Church’s International Festival began at a friendly pace at the inaugural Family Fun Run/Walk.

Participants lined up to walk and run to benefit the Shepherd’s Gate Grant Program. “Our goal is to raise as much money as possible,” said William DeMaso, who organized the 5K run and 1K walk for younger participants.

DeMaso’s goal was to have 75 participants in the event. By the end of the day, there were a total of 103 participants — 80 in the 5K and 23 in the 1K. DeMaso also had 18 volunteers stationed throughout the route to assist runners and pass out water.

“The focus for the run is fellowship and fun,” said DeMaso. “It’s a way of bringing the community and the church together.”

Father Tom Ferguson — who has been the pastor of the Good Shepherd Catholic Church for a year — started each run with a prayer, and children, adults and a few family pets took off throughout the neighborhood toward the finish line.

Most of the runners were members of the church or local residents. However, a few seasoned runners traveled a little farther to participate in the event.

John Capozzi from Washington, D.C., has been an avid runner since 1984. Capozzi said he found out about the Good Shepherd Catholic Church event through a racing publication.

“I live in D.C., but it’s always great when the church can hold something like this,” said Capozzi. “This is the third one I’ve done this summer that involved a church, and it’s usually kind of inspiring.”

Art Tiller, who visits the church with his wife, said he’s a runner and enjoys racing. But the people and the friends he’s made at Good Shepherd Catholic Church also encouraged him to run and participate in the weekend events.

“This is a wonderful cause. I love the church, and my wife and I wanted to come and have a good time out here,” said Tiller. “I really love coming to Good Shepherd, and the people are great.”

The first people to cross the 1K finish line were Isabella DeMaso and Luke Cotnoir. The first man and woman to cross the 5K finish line were Neil Van Aartrijk, who finished in 18 minutes and 36 seconds, and Julianne Tela, who completed the run in 22 minutes and 58 seconds.

Last year, the International Festival raised about $37,000 for Shepherd’s Gate, said pastoral associate Claudia Fiebig. DeMaso said the 5K run event raised almost $2,000, and the church will continue to raise money for the program throughout the holiday weekend.

For the past 37 years, Good Shepherd Catholic Church has organized the multicultural festival, which includes ethnic food and drink, live entertainment, a raffle to win a $10,000 cash prize, children’s games and more.

“It’s really just an opportunity to celebrate the diversity and different cultures that make up our parish,” said Ferguson. “It’s a social event, but the monies that are raised during the festival help serve others.”

The festivities will continue with Mass at noon Sunday and the festival from noon to 6 p.m. on Labor Day.

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