Keep Fit: Katy’s Courage 5K Honors, Celebrates Life

Katy Stewart and horse Footloose.
Katy Stewart and horse Footloose. Photo credit: Courtesy Jim Stewart

It’s Opening Day for the East End athlete, as the Long Island season of 5Ks kicks off this weekend with one of the most meaningful of the series—the Katy’s Courage 5K in Sag Harbor. The race celebrates the life of Sag Harbor native Katy Stewart, who passed away from a rare form of pediatric cancer in December 2010 at 12 years young.

The Katy’s Courage 5K is one of the primary fundraisers for Katy’s Courage, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization honoring Katy. The goal of Katy’s Courage is threefold: to support pediatric cancer research, to award scholarships—a $10,000 scholarship goes to a Pierson grad each year—and to establish Katy’s Kids @ CMEE, a bereavement center.

The inaugural Katy’s Courage 5K was held in April 2011, at the coaxing of friends. The Stewarts were knee-deep in establishing Katy’s Courage as a 501(c)(3), and they needed a signature event to anchor the organization. Friends reached out and noted that a 5K could be a viable option.

They were correct.

“We’re very thankful to all the support we get, and we’re looking forward to it being another great event,” says Katy’s father Jim Stewart. Like Harborfest and Harborfrost, Katy’s Courage has become a highly anticipated seasonal event for Sag Harbor, drawing well over 1,000 participants each year. Those who don’t want to race are welcome to volunteer day-of or to donate money.

The April 5 race begins on Water Street and weaves through Sag Harbor. The generally flat course has a few hills thrown in to keep competition fierce. Also helping to fuel the competitive fire is a new timing system through “ITS YOUR RACE.” The system streamlines the registration process and also sends mobile updates, allowing more competitive runners to track their pace.

However, Stewart is quick to emphasize that the event is not just for serious racers. It’s a community event that caters to athletes, fitness aficionados and do-gooders of all running abilities. Walkers are more than welcome. Awards run the gamut, celebrating both fast times and participants in all age groups.

The third cornerstone of Katy’s Courage, the partnership with the Children’s Museum of the East End (CMEE), is new, and the hope is to have the bereavement center up and running by the fall. The idea for the bereavement center was spurred by a visit to The Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas in San Antonio. The Stewarts saw how Katy’s younger brother Robert benefitted from the programs offered, and they realized there was a need for a similar service at home on the East End. Stewart  notes that not a lot of people would think to go to a center, but “when you’re there, it’s something that you’re glad that you’ve found.”

The Stewarts hope to model the center at CMEE after the Texas facility, which primarily focuses on play therapy. Kids can partake in a variety of activities, all while being supported by a therapist. “And the parents definitely feel supported,” Stewart adds.

“[We’re] just taking baby steps at this point and we hear a lot of adults tell us that they wish they had something like this when they were younger. There is a need [on the East End].”

Katy’s Courage 5K begins on Saturday at 8:30 a.m. Preregistration, which allows participants to enter into a drawing for an iPad courtesy of GeekHampton, is open until Friday, April 4. Day-of registration begins at 7 a.m. For more information on Katy’s Courage and to preregister for the 5K, visit Preregistration is $25 and day-of registration is $30.

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