Hundreds run in kids’ marathon

BROOKSVILLE Children raced toward the finish line Saturday morning on Nature Coast Technical High School’s track, smiling and panting, trying to finish ahead of their siblings and friends and excited to get a medal of their very own.

The inaugural event had more than 400 runners, said Galen Unold, director of donor recruitment and retention at LifeSouth Community Blood Centers, a national nonprofit that works to raise awareness on donating blood, marrow, cord blood, organs and tissues.

Unold said the run is helping create the “donation generation” in hopes children will grow up to solve the blood shortage. By having third graders tour the inside of the blood mobile takes the fear of giving blood away at an early age, Unold said, and combats any “preconceived notions.”

“Someone’s tragedy can be someone else’s life saving gift,” Unold said.

Runners completed a 1.2 mile loop on Saturday morning, and children logged 25 miles total throughout the school year.

LifeSouth partnered with Oak Hill Hospital for the event, as well as other local sponsors.

“Our pediatric emergency center is all about kids,” said Richard Linkul, Oak Hill’s marketing director. “I’m very proud for the opportunity to be associated with this wonderful event.”

Linkul said the “five points” message nicely integrates with other important community issues, such as reducing childhood obesity. “It all works together,” Linkul added.

As the crowds thinned out to begin the rest of their weekend, LifeSouth’s blood mobile had a handful of participants getting ready to give blood.

Kat Becker said she made a “spur of the moment” after the race, and the man drawing her blood confirmed her O positive blood type can be used by some 80 percent of the population.

“I wish more people knew that every 2 second someone receives a transfusion,” said Unold, adding that more often than not, individuals are eligible to donate.

According to LifeSouth’s website, tighter tattoo regulations in Florida led the company to remove the mandatory one-year waiting period between getting inked and giving blood.

More information on giving blood is available at

(352) 544-5283

Hundreds run in kids’ marathon
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