Local running group raising money to ‘bridge the gap’ for homebound students

PRS Running club raised nearly $5,000 in less than a week

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – One of the things about the response to the coronavirus is that we’re hearing a lot of stories about people going out of their way to help those most in need. That includes some groups of athletes.

You may recognize the name Lydia McRae. She’s one of the top distance runners in Jacksonville. We’ve featured her on our River Run coverage on Channel 4. When McRae heard about schools closing and lunches being made available to kids who could come by the schools to pick them up, she wondered about the students who couldn’t easily get to the schools.

She sprang into action.

McRae and her husband, Paul, are the founders of the local PRS running group, and when she posted on social media, the running community responded in a big way.

"It was literally 7 p.m. last Monday night, I said, ‘Why don’t we just post on Facebook, in the running club, because people could make contributions to the run club and it would be a charitable organization,’” McRae said “The next morning we had over $2,000 (in donations), and I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, people are really wanting to help.’”

It didn’t take long for runners around the city to chip in. Some gave a little. Some gave more. And before long, some local companies began to get involved.

“I was so overwhelmed when I started seeing the donations come in,” McRae said.

Initially, her goals were modest. Raise a hundred dollars. Maybe two hundred.

When she woke up the next morning, she realized that this had grown to something much bigger — and needed some institutional assistance.

“There is another lady in the running club who is connected with a group in town called Hunger Fight, and they were trying to help these kids as well. And so we’ve learned that $590 could feed 100 kids for a week,” McRae said “They make prepackaged nutritious, nonperishable meals. I thought, 'Okay, well if we can get $590, then we can feed 100 kids. And then the next morning it was $2,000. And then it was $2,600 and then now we just got another thousand.”

McRae and her group have made deliveries at several apartment complexes in order to get the food the families who need it and the response has been, as you can imagine, tremendous.

“Kids are excited about toys typically — or that should be what excites them. I mean, we’re giving them oatmeal and we’re giving them red beans and rice and they’re just so thankful,” McRae said. “We went to a place over the weekend, and this lady came up to pick up food and she was just crying and she said, ‘We’re so low. You don’t know how much this helps us. We’re just so low.' And that was just enough.”

McRae says they’ll keep raising money and donating every dollar it up as long as the need is there. If you want to help, can make donations via Venmo, the group’s Venmo ID is @PRSRunningClub. The donation is tax-deductible. For those who know of families in need, you can reach out to McRae via Facebook.

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