Fee waiver paves way for third annual Honor Our Heroes 5K on Saturday, May 26

The third annual Honor our Heroes 5K Memorial Run presented by VIP Warriors is scheduled for Saturday, May 26, 2018 in downtown Oldsmar. (Credit: Facebook/Honor our Heroes Memorial Run)

The Oldsmar City Council recently agreed to waive $2,600 in special-event fees for a local nonprofit veterans organization, paving the way for the third annual Honor our Heroes 5K Memorial Run/Walk/Roll on Saturday, May 26, 2018.

The Memorial Day weekend event is set to start at 8:00 a.m. and will begin at City Hall and loop through the downtown district.

Early registration can be done online, with entry fees starting at $25 for military members and $28 for “civilians,” and include  a tee-shirt, two post-race craft beers and a medal for all participants. Post-race awards will also be handed out in several categories.

A view of the 2018 Honor our Heroes 5K Run registration-start/finish line area.

The run is being presented by VIP Warriors, a local chapter of a national group that was formed in order to filter the proceeds of the event directly back into the community, according to Oldsmar Veterans Advisory Board member Dave Tilki.

“The first year of this event was actually run through a national organization based in Virginia, and the local group was like a sub-chapter of them,” Tilki told the council on Tuesday, Jan. 16.

“And what we found out, kind of a little too late, was all the funds raised here locally had to go to national corporate headquarters and then the funds were divvied out, with no guarantee they would come back locally. And, in fact, we weren’t seeing the return that we were hoping for.”

Tilki said VIP Warriors, Inc. was formed so “all the funds are controlled locally by a nonprofit, all-volunteer board. There’s no paid staff, and we know the funds are staying local.”

He noted the race began as an offshoot of the former Tap House 5K, which brought “1,200 people to State Street on a Friday evening” and he stressed the importance of local races, like this one and the long-running Armadillo Run, to the community.

Andy Bernt is helped to the finish line during the 2017 Honor Our Heroes 5K in Oldsmar. (Facebook/Honor our Heroes Memorial Run.)

“We hear people love running in Oldsmar, and there’s only two (races) now,” Tilki said. “We appreciate the support given by the city, because would love to keep bringing this race to the community year after year.”

Prior to the council unanimously approving the item, Mayor Doug Bevis related the inspiring story of Andy Bernt, a disabled veteran who was carried to the finish line last year after his custom chair broke halfway through the race.

“When he came around that corner, to watch him determined to make it to that finish line, it shows why these guys are warriors,” Bevis said.

“I get chills just thinking about it.”

Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis.

Tilki said Bernt refused to be carted off in a truck because he was determined to finish, and his military brethren helped him accomplish his goal.

“In the military, there’s no brother left behind,” he said.

“Thanks for the history,” Bevis replied. “It’s important.

“And you’re right, the local races are important, too.”

For more information on the third annual Honor our Heroes 5K Memorial Run/Walk on Saturday, May 26, 2018, visit the event’s Facebook page.

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