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Southwest Orange Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018 3 years ago

Boy scout organizes 5K race to benefit homeless students

Blake Gardner, 17, is organizing a 5K at the University of Central Florida to raise funds for Orange County Public Schools’ Homeless Students Division.
by: Gabby Baquero News Editor

UPDATE: This event, which was previously scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 20, has been rescheduled to April 7, 2018. 

Shortly after learning of the alarming statistics involving homeless students and financially struggling families in Central Florida, Blake Gardner, 17, knew exactly what to do for his Eagle Scout project.

Gardner has been a boy scout with Troop 6 chartered by St. Luke’s Methodist Church since ninth grade, but now as a freshman at the University of Central Florida, he is seeking to earn his Eagle Scout badge – the highest honor one can receive as a boy scout.

To obtain such an honor, however, Gardner will first need to complete a project that leaves a positive impact on the community. But while most boy scouts who earn their badge do so by tackling small building projects, such as a bench at a community park, renovation of a bike trail or a tortoise enclosure for a local wildlife reserve, Gardner chose to find a way to raise money for homeless students.

“I volunteer a lot at the Second Harvest Food Bank, and I see the families who come in,” Gardner said. “So I just started doing research about the homelessness and hunger that goes on in Orlando. I guess the people that aren’t in that situation don’t see it often, but I learned that one in 60 families have trouble providing food for their families each week. I thought that number was a little crazy, and I just wanted to do something to help them.”

As a new student at UCF, he learned about a program at the university that helps homeless students and learned that Orange County Public Schools had a similar program as well. He soon developed an idea to organize a 5K at UCF and worked out the logistics with Orange County Public Schools and UCF.

“I didn’t realize how big of an issue it was until I started doing a little more research into it, and I found out that there are thousands of students just in our local area in high school that are homeless,” he added. “So I contacted OCPS and what they told me is that what they really need is more funding. They said that they are underfunded, and few people know about the resources they give families and the children who are displaced, and I was trying to think of what’s the best way to raise money for them. And I thought a 5K would be a good idea.”

All the proceeds collected from sign-ups for the 5K, which is scheduled for Saturday, April 7, will be donated to OCPS’s Homeless Students Division to provide food, clothing, bus passes, school supplies and hygiene products for homeless students in the county. 

As the event has a maximum registration number of 800 people with a registration donation of $25, Gardner had originally estimated he’d be able to raise $60,000, assuming 800 participants signed up. But based on registration signups received so far, which totaled 50 people on Monday, he expects to raise about $4,000 for the division. 

“It goes toward a good cause and it’s just a small way of giving back to the community,” he said. “Not everyone has hundreds of thousands of dollars to donate at a time, but by just paying the small fee to participate in the 5K, they can show their support for our community.”


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