The sixth annual Wells Veterans Day 5K was held Saturday, Nov. 9. Proceeds from the event help defray travels costs so that Maine veterans can visit the memorials in Washington, D.C. Dan King photo

The prize for winning the Wells Veterans Day 5K is a round-trip ticket to Boston on the Amtrak Downeaster. More poignant is the transportation veterans receive because of all that running.

The event annually raises funds that help Maine veterans visit the memorials in Washington, D.C.

The race was started six years ago by the Wells Chamber of Commerce and its director, Eleanor Vadenais. The event begins and ends at the Wells Elks Club on Bald Hill Road.

“We were looking to do another event … and we had two board members that are runners and suggested a 5K,” Vadenais said about the origins. “One of those board members is Heather Farrell, who is running this race for the sixth year in a row this year. Heather also ran the Boston Marathon last year. We selected Veterans Day …. we believed that people would rally behind the cause.”

The average turnout is about 100 to 150 runners and walkers, “depending on the race-day weather,” Vadenais said. About 15 to 20 volunteers lend their time and talents on race day. With numerous road races dotting the calendar, especially 5Ks, participation remains consistent for a shoulder-season event.

After the inaugural running in 2014, organiziers aligned with Honor Flight Maine, selecting a beneficiary that is close to home.

“After seeing a clip on Channel 6 about Honor Flight Maine and of one of the returning trips at the Portland Jetport, we determined to split the proceeds with them and the Maine Homeless Veterans (Portland),” Vadenais said.

The Wells Veterans Day 5K Run/Walk raises funds that help send Maine veterans to the memorials in Washington. D.C.

A new champion and Downeaster rider was guaranteed at this year’s race, held Saturday, Nov. 9. Three-time champ, Chris Dunn, of Kennebunk, did not defend his title. Gavin Perro, 17, of Sanford claimed the top prize with a time of 18 minutes, 57 seconds. Nikki Smith, 26, Shapleigh, was the women’s champion (third place overall) in 21:14. A total of 127 completed the 3.16-mile course on a 34-degree morning.

Proceeds from Saturday’s race will help send veterans to Washington, D.C. In a couple weeks, a local television station will air its annual Honor Flight Maine fundraiser and garner much attention and much-needed funds.

“We’re aware of the telethon …”, Vadenais said. “While our donations are just a drop in the bucket compared to what the telethon collects, we believe it is important to promote Honor Flight Maine locally to raise awareness for this wonderful program. We’ve had local families who’ve had a loved one make the trip and they’ve contacted us to thank us for supporting the program as it has made a huge impact on their family member.”

According to Honor Flight Maine, the cost to send a veteran to Washington, D.C., is about $600 to $700.

“We would not be able to continue this event without the support of the runners, who obviously enjoy the race as we have quite a few that have been doing it for many years in a row,” Vadenais said. “The ongoing support of the Wells Elks Club, in particular, Tony Hafford, who stepped to the plate from the beginning; our sponsors who don’t think twice about renewing their commitment to this event year after year and the volunteers that assist us at the event.”

For more information or to donate to Honor Flight Maine, visit www.honorflightmaine.org.

Past Champions
2014: Kyle Burnell, 18:11, Rebecca Miller, 21:29
2015: Nathan Huppe, Dover, 16:44 (course record), Heather Field, 21:12
2016: Chris Dunn, 17:39, Liz Turner, Minneapolis, 19:05 (course record)
2017: Chris Dunn, 18:00, Chaya Lord-Rozeff, 22:10
2018: Chris Dunn, 18:01, Kristen Courcelle, 20:29
2019: Gavin Perro, 18:57, Nikki Smith, 21:14

Dan King is an editor/page designer for Mainely Media LLC. He is one of two runners who have participated in all six Wells Veterans Day 5Ks. He enjoys participating events that are small pebbles with big ripples.

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