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Now in its fifth year, the I Love LK Memorial 5K Run/Walk, set for this Saturday at Lake Catherine State Park, is expected to be bigger than ever, organizers say.

The event, which honors the late Lila Kate McAlister, is a fundraiser for the I Love LK Memorial Fund, which benefits different nonprofit organizations. The event, which also helps raise awareness for Down syndrome, drew around 380 participants and raised $33,000 last year.

Since it started in 2015, the event has raised over $100,000.

Event organizer Kim McAllister said more than 500 people are expected to participate in the 5K this Saturday and attributed the increase in participants to a new category added this year.

As before, the male and female runners who win the 5K are allowed to choose a preapproved nonprofit to receive a portion of the donations, but this year the person who can assemble the largest group of participants will also get to choose a nonprofit recipient.

One group attempting to win this new category is the Window Mart and Windows USA group. Kassie Lacey, the company's customer service manager, said that, as of Thursday, they have 150 employees registered to run with several more planning to run.

McAllister said there is at least one other group challenging for the win.

Another part of the event is Lila's Mile, which is actually under a quarter of a mile, that children with disabilities can participate in. The youngsters hold a banner with Lila's photo on it while they walk.

McAllister said Lila's Mile has significance for special needs children and many of the participants look forward to the event all year long.

"It makes them feel like they are a part of something ... makes them feel like they have a place," she said, noting each child who participates in Lila's Mile will get a medal.

In addition to the organizations chosen by the winners, the event also donates to organizations that help children, including Arkansas Children's Hospital, Increasing Capabilities Access Network, or iCAN, and Special Olympics.

McAlister died in 2015 at the age of 4 of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, due to being born with Down syndrome and other heart and lung complications.

She was the daughter of McAllister's close friends, Misty and Skip McAlister. McAllister said that before her death, they were already talking about doing a 5K charity to help raise awareness for Down syndrome. After their daughter's death, McAllister said the McAlisters decided to go ahead with the 5K.

When they noticed March 21 was on a Saturday, McAllister said they decided the 5K had to be held that day, 3/21, because people with Down syndrome have three copies of chromosome 21 instead of two.

McAllister said they originally took the event to Lake Catherine State Park because there was a lot of red tape involved with closing streets for a race and they didn't have time to get approval between Lila Kate's death and March 21 that first year.

Assistant Superintendent of Lake Catherine State Park Cheryl Vincent heard about the 5K and offered the park as the location, and the race has been held there ever since.

McAllister said the park has been a good place for the 5K because it is beautiful, and campers will line up and cheer on the participants.

After the race is over, there will be grilled burgers and hot dogs, as well as live music.

While online preregistration has closed, people wishing to participate can preregister from 4 to 6 p.m. today at Lake Valley Community Church, or before the race on Saturday.

Local on 03/15/2019

Print Headline: Fifth annual I Love LK 5K set Saturday

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