For the second straight year, Pound the Pavement for Peter, a 5-kilometer fun run to benefit children with rare diseases, will take place virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Named for a boy who died of a peroxisomal disorder, the event normally takes place at Capital City Club in Brookhaven and annually benefits programs that aid children with peroxisomal disorders and other rare diseases. This year participants have the opportunity to run a 5K from wherever they are March 27 and 28.

“This event is important for all kids who have medical issues, rare diseases and other disabilities because what we focus on is inclusion and education, research for rare diseases and medical support for these children,” said Brookhaven resident Anne Park Hopkins, whose son Peter died of peroxisomal disorder just a week before his fourth birthday in 2010.

“What it offers is not only support for these three areas, but also hope for a life where each child and family can realize their potential. With more awareness, we’re going to have more support for children and these families.”

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a peroxisome is a small organelle that is present in the cytoplasm of many cells and that contains the reducing enzyme catalase and usually some oxidases.

Pound the Pavement will benefit three nonprofits: the Global Foundation for Peroxisomal Disorders, which funds and promotes peroxisome disorder research and helps families and professionals through educational programs and support; the Adaptive Learning Center, which enables children with special needs to learn, play and grow with other students in regular preschool classrooms; and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s Medically Complex Care Program, which, allows pediatric patients with multiple doctors and medical fragilities to receive specialized care all in one central location in a collaborative environment.

Monies raised from this event and others are helping fund a second doctor for the Medically Complex Care Program starting this spring, Hopkins said.

In 2020 the fun run pivoted online just days prior because of the outbreak. Despite the shift, it still raised $150,000, the same amount as the previous year, and its 2021 goal is the same.

“What we learned (is) that during a pandemic people are still eager to go out with their family, have an activity and rally around a cause and that people are eager to continue to make a difference,” Hopkins said. “We learned that people still want to give to a cause, be part of events, and are able to be creative about how they do that.

“We were very impressed and excited about how enthusiastic people were to be a part of the virtual event last year. We’re planning on that for making sure we continue with that this year and making a couple of other fun activities for people to be a part of beyond just running a 5K.”

Pound the Pavement has a junior committee of 32 children from nine schools in Georgia, ranging in age from fourth to 10th grade and helping promote the event.

“I would say it’s important because I’ve been running it a long time and my mom has been friends with them for a long time,” said Grayson Balloon, 16. “Every time I go to the race, there’s always so much positivity. Everyone is one big community there to support Peter and his family.”

Grady Huestis, 15, Peter’s cousin, said, “It’s important to me and really means a lot to all of us, because he was such an inspiration for our family. Even when he was very sick, he always had a joyful smile and was always happy.”

Brennan Hopkins, Peter’s 10-year-old sister, added the race is important to her “because he was my brother, and the causes the race supports helped my brother with his disease and doctors. The Adaptive Learning Center helped him to make friends at school.”

Greer Dozier, 10, who is one of Brennan Hopkins’ best friends, said, “It is very important to me because … I think it is so unfair that children like Peter or with a similar disability or any disability might get mistreated for something they can’t help and something they might get born into.”

Parker Fletcher, 11, another Hopkins family friend, added, “One of the groups for Pound the Pavement for Peter gives money for, it has changed one of our family friend’s lives (Ann Townsend Lynch, who had a brain injury at birth), and it has been really special for us. It’s a great cause and we love just saving kids and helping them out is awesome. The race itself is just fun. You get to be with your friends and race each other. I really enjoy it.”

Anne Park Hopkins said she’s “blown away” by the support the community has given to the cause.

“We are so deeply appreciative of the community that has continued to support us over the past 12 years with this race,” she said. “The beneficiaries of this race rely on our dollars to continue to do what they do – make a difference in the lives of children and families struggling with medical issues, rare diseases and other disabilities.

Registration is $30 per person (plus a $3.50 signup fee), and other sponsorships are still available. For more information or to register, visit www.poundthepavementforpeter.com.

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