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Button Down Dash benefits health charities

Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan About 500 people participate in the start of the 5K race at the Gwinnett Chamber's inaugural Button Down Dash in Duluth on Saturday. The 5K and 10K run benefited local charities including Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Dream House for Medically Fragile Children and Gwinnett Medical Center Foundation.

Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan About 500 people participate in the start of the 5K race at the Gwinnett Chamber's inaugural Button Down Dash in Duluth on Saturday. The 5K and 10K run benefited local charities including Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Dream House for Medically Fragile Children and Gwinnett Medical Center Foundation.

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DULUTH -- When Gwinnett Medical Center and Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce put together the inaugural Button Down Dash 5K/10K Race, the expectation was for a first-class event to drive the Gwinnett community to become the healthiest community in the state.

Based on Saturday's results, it appears the first step was a success.

Nearly 700 runners in all shapes, sizes and ages (6 to 62) came together as the sun came up at the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce and took off in two separate races -- a 10K and a 5K.

When all was said and done, the friendly competition that featured individuals and teams was a huge success for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Dream House for Medically Fragile Children and Gwinnett Medical Center Foundation.

"When the Gwinnett Chamber approached us about getting involved with this charity event, we jumped on it," said Gwinnett Medical Center marketing and community relations director Dolores Ware. "It is a charity event and it is also an event about creating health awareness in the community. So it fits right into what we're about."

Not only did Gwinnett Medical Center work with the Gwinnett Chamber to conduct the event, it also had a team of runners on the course that was led by GMC-Duluth president Lea Bay.

But it wasn't just a team pulled together for this event. Bay leads a group of runners that numbers more than 100 at the hospital that seeks out at least one 5K race in the area every month.

"I got back into running after I had my kids and I was running in a 5K in Atlanta when I noticed a lot of teams participating with their company names on shirts," said Bay. "At that time, we were opening Gwinnett Medical (Center) in Duluth and I knew we were looking for ways to get the word out about our facility and thought it was a good way to get the word out.

But I was also inspired about getting our employees to do something together that is healthy and social. Now we have a way to tell everyone who we are and what we do."

Brian O'Neal of Lawrenceville was the winner in the men's 10K race with a time 39:15 over the course that ventured on to Satellite Boulevard and Sugarloaf Parkway.

"The funny thing about finding out about this race is my ex-wife emailed me to tell me about it," said O'Neal. "They did an excellent job of organizing this event although it was a challenging course with some tough hills. My time was off a little bit, but it was enough to win. I try to run in as many of these (races) as I can. But I work for the (Clayton County) Fire Department, so it is tough to find time to do it."

Meanwhile, Crissy Ivey of Pendergrass took the women's 10K overall title with a time of 44:54.

"I have a friend who teaches at Chestnut Mountain (in Hall County) and she found out about the race," said Ivey, who teaches and also coaches cross country at C.W. Davis Middle School in Hall County. "We were interested because the event supports Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. We like to run in charity events because of what they represent and this event has been very well organized."

In the 5K races, Dacula's Chris Mayer had the best time on the men's side with a clocking of 16:43 while Nicole Smith of Loganville took the women's title with a time of 17:59.

"On our Runners Fit Website, we had this race listed and I had some time this weekend to get in a race," said Mayer, who is an assistant boys cross country coach at Mill Creek High School. "And I was excited about giving money to a charity event like this today. It was a little tougher course than I expected and my time was about 30 seconds slower than usual, but it was great to see a lot of people out having a good time for a good cause."

Medic Maids also put an entire team in the competition, which included Karen Garland of Marietta.

"We decided it would be a good way to spend some time with co-workers on a Saturday morning and get some exercise in," said Garland, who finished first in the 30-39 age group with a time of 23:56 in the 5K. "I've run a couple of half-marathons and also some 10K and 5K races. But I enjoyed it because we were able to do this as a group and it was for charity."

There was even a Diaper Dash that featured runners pushing strollers with their children. Jeff Wilkerson of Buford took honors in that category with a time of 22:35 over the 5K course.

And while the fun was aplenty all morning, the end result is a great fundraiser that seems destined for a long and profitable future.

"We were blown away by the response and turnout we got today," said Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce programs and event manager Rachel Jeffers. "We would like to grow this event and continue to see the number of runners increase, but also increase the vendors and sponsors at the same time. We feel like today really turned out about well as we expected."