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Easthampton’s Northeast Center for Youth and Families hosts fundraising ‘Run for Kids’ Saturday

— Organizers of the “Run for Kids” at the Northeast Center for Youth and Families on East Street said the event Saturday is a chance for the community to have a little fun while raising funds for important programs for troubled teens and children.

The Northeast Center for Youth and Families serves about 600 children and teens through the Tri-County School and other programs to support foster families and children with emotional, behavioral or psychiatric needs. While most of its programs are supported by state or federal funding, some of its “special” ones are not, said Suzanne Welch, director of grants and development.

“The proceeds of this event go totally to benefit those special programs,” she said, including, for example, its gardening program, equestrian therapy and off-campus trips. “These are the programs that are therapeutic for kids, even when they don’t know they’re getting therapy.”

The “Run for Kids” Saturday includes a five-kilometer race, a two-mile walk and a free “fun run” for kids. In its inaugural year in 2011, the event raised approximately $5,000, she said.

Earlier this year, organizers of the city’s staple 5K for eight years, “Derrill’s Race,” announced that 2011 was its final year. Welch said she hopes the “Run for Kids” can fill the void and become a “signature event” for the community.

Last year’s event was mostly attended by community members, she said, rather than families involved with the center, and it was a good chance for people to learn more about its programs.

“We’ll have displays set up from each department explaining what they do,” she said. “We want people to know who we serve, what we do and that we’re here in their community.”

Registration costs $25 and begins at 8 a.m.

The 5K race starts at the center at 203 East St. at 10 a.m., with Mayor Michael A. Tautznik sounding a siren. Participants will run on the Manhan Rail Trail to Fort Hill Road, where they will turn left and take back roads to reconnect with the rail trail on Lovefield Street, before looping back to finish at the center.

Prizes will be given to the first man and woman to cross the finish line and the first person in each age group.

The two-mile walk heads east on the rail trail at 9:45 a.m. and the free Fun Run for children begins at 11.

Leashed dogs and strollers are only allowed in the two-mile walk.

After the race is complete, participants can enjoy a disc jockey playing music, a pasta meal provided by Hamel’s Creative Catering of Holyoke and beer from Opa-Opa Brewery of Williamsburg. The brewery is donating some of its proceeds to the center.

For information, visit www.run.ncyf.org.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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