Richard Francis has raised more than $1,000 to help veterans during the Maine Vets 5K. Courtesy photo

SCARBOROUGH — When Richard Francis saw that the Maine Vets 5K was virtual this year, he decided to combine two of his passions – being active and helping others — to raise money for the Resident Activities Fund at Maine Veterans’ Home-Scarborough.

The fund allows our Veterans to remain active members of their community – attend musical and theater performances, have meals out, enjoy entertainment brought into the Home and much more.

This year’s Maine Vets 5K is the eighth annual event, but the first time it has been virtual. It’s also the first time participants have been able to create a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign that they can share with friends and family.

Francis, a first time participant in the 5K, is a volunteer for Hospice of Southern Maine in Scarborough and his regular assignment before COVID-19 was MVH Scarborough, where he’d spend a couple hours a week visiting with residents on hospice care.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it,” he said, adding that he spends time sitting with residents quietly, they chat or visit different areas of the Home. Sometimes, he simply listens. Most of the people he has spent time with have Alzheimer’s disease or some form of dementia, he added.

“I really learned an incredible appreciation of and how valuable the people are who work with these residents,” Francis said. “I hope to be back soon.”

The 2020 Maine Vets 5K invites supporters of the nonprofit organization and the greater running/walking community to complete the 5K anywhere, at any time before Aug. 16. While the Maine Vets 5K usually means getting together among music, raffles, snacks and more, the sentiment behind the virtual event remains the same — to support Veteran Heroes and their family members who reside at MVH Scarborough.

Francis, a retired pastor who turned 68 this year, said he used to run, but his knees have taken too much of a beating to engage in this particular form of exercise anymore, so he decided to not only walk one 5K, but 10. He walked along Old Orchard Beach, the Eastern Trail, Baxter Boulevard and the scenic Laurel Hill Cemetery in Saco, among other locations. Many times he was joined by his wife or sister and each step of the way, he chronicled his journey to share with others.

On July 17 he posted: “Here’s #1 of 10-5k challenge walks for Maine Veterans Homes. This one began with a sprint down “mosquito alley” at Peterson Field in Scarborough. If you want to contribute to my support, here’s the link: https://mainevets.charityproud.org/Fundrai…/…/RichardFrancis”

There are many firsts for this year’s Maine Vets 5K and one of those is that participants can raise money for veterans above their registration fee by creating a campaign that they can share with friends and family via social media and email. As Francis completed each of the 10 5Ks, he posted photos, urging donations to MVH Scarborough. Francis originally set out to raise $500 for the home and so far, has raised double that amount for residents.

Sign up for the Maine Vets 5K: https://mainevets.charityproud.org/P2PRegistration/Index/6674

MVH hopes that this year will be the biggest yet for the Maine Vets 5K and encourages people from Maine and beyond to sign up to run, walk, bike, wheel or even dance the event before Aug. 16: https://mainevets.charityproud.org/P2PRegistration/Index/6674.

Participants will receive a commemorative challenge coin and compete for prizes; send entries to Race Organizer Ally Miller at [email protected] or post to the event Facebook page.

Prizes will go to: Top fundraiser for children, adults and teams; Most patriotic picture; Most scenic photo; Best outfit; Most creatively shaped route; and Largest team.

“I really appreciate the veterans and their service to our country and know that the Veterans’ Home is wonderful place for them,” Francis said, adding that he’s felt honored to be able to contribute to the home’s programming.

“To be able to increase the level of programming they’re able to offer, anything at all that allows them to do a better job of what they do so well already, is an incredible investment,” he said.

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