The Gulf Coast's Entertainment Destination since 1967
Seville Quarter hosts Ronald McDonald House Firecracker 5k
Annual 5K helps keep Ronald McDonald House operating
For the last two years, Karen Cajote and her family have driven from Panama City to don their favorite running gear at the annual Ronald McDonald House Charities Firecracker 5K Run, Walk and Wheelchair Race.
In 2014, Cajote’s daughter, Tiffany, was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia and was immediately transported from Panama City to Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola. A few days later, Tiffany, then 22, delivered her son, Wyatt, at 25 weeks. As soon as she was released from the hospital, she moved into the Ronald McDonald House to be close to Wyatt, who was still receiving premature infant treatment at Sacred Heart nearby.
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northwest Florida has served as a home-away-from-home and source of comfort and resources for more than 20,000 adults and children since it opened in 1984. The house opened as a six-bedroom facility and now offers 26 private bedrooms to families and children who need to remain close to the hospital. The house provides families with a comfortable bed, snacks, hot meals, laundry facilities, and play rooms for children.
“We all kind of drove back and forth each week to visit her — her husband and I, her daughter Zoey, her grandmother, and my mom and dad — just to offer all the support we could,” Cajote said.
That year, the family completed the Firecracker 5K for the first time, months after Wyatt and Tiffany were released from the hospital. The group made matching tie-dye shirts reading “Team Wyatt” for everyone in the family.
“It had been such an emotional journey for us that year, and everyone in the house had done so much for us,” Cajote said. “I couldn’t imagine getting through that time without the Ronald McDonald House — either emotionally or financially — and we just wanted to support their cause and give back to them in any small way we possibly could.”
The house asks for a $10 donation from each family for a night’s stay, and Summer Jimmerson, a representative of the house, said some can only afford half, while other’s can’t afford anything.
The Firecracker 5K is one of two annual fundraising events that helps keep the house operating, Jimmerson said.
“We have about 1,200 runners and tons of people who come out just to cheer the runners on,” she said. “Many people come out in patriotic gear or just to support the house.”
Last year, the Cajote family returned for the race, and pushed a 1-year-old Wyatt in his stroller through the course and past the finish line in downtown Pensacola, while unanimously deciding to make the run an annual family gathering.
“We all decided that we would make a commitment to try and come every year,” Cajote said.
The family will return for the race this weekend, despite the heartbreaking circumstances they’ve endured this year.
Last month, Tiffany, 24, died unexpectedly.
“Even though it’s really hard, we all believe this is something that Tiffany would have really wanted us to do,” Cajote said. “This house just made a really huge impact on our lives, and we want to show the kids how important it is to remember to give back when you can, even if it’s hard.”
Want to go?
Online registration has closed, but in-person registration forms will be made available at Packet Pick-Up on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Packet Pick-Up will be noon to 6 p.m. Thursday and 3 to 7 p.m. Friday at the Ronald McDonald House, 5200 Bayou Blvd., and Friday inside Apple Annie’s in Seville Quarter, 130 E. Government St. Late packet pickup and registration will be 6 to 7:25 a.m. Saturday at Seville Quarter.
At the conclusion of the 5K, all kids are invited to join the free “Rock Our Socks” Kid’s Fun Run presented by Peaden Air Conditioning, Plumbing & Electrical. Participants are encouraged to celebrate the patriotic occasion by wearing red, white and blue. Prizes will be awarded for best costumes in three categories: children, adults and family. Ronald McDonald will mingle with the crowd at the post-race party which will include free refreshments, music and an awards ceremony. Vendor booths are also available. Details: 477-2273 or firstname.lastname@example.org.