Cumberland to host 14th Safe Passage fundraiser for Guatemalan children

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CUMBERLAND — Safe Passage has for the past two years made a fiesta of its 5K fundraiser.

The 14th annual Safe Passage Maine 5K and Fiesta will be held at Greely High School, 303 Main St., on Sunday, May 6. The Latin-themed party that follows the 5K and children’s run is a nod to the culture of the people that Safe Passage was founded  to help two decades ago.

The event, which benefits Guatemala City-based Safe Passage, welcomes spring “while we make a difference in the lives of less fortunate people living in extreme poverty,” race director Ann Dillon said April 26.

Registration starts at 1:30 p.m., followed by the 5K run/walk at 3 p.m. and the “Kids Fun Run” at 3:45 p.m.

Cuban music from Primo Cubano, a Portland-based band, kicks off at 4 p.m., and the fiesta includes a free nacho bar and activities for children.

The event costs $20 for adults, $8 for students and $45 for families. Advance registration is offered at safepassage.org/5k.

Dillon, a North Yarmouth veteran triathlete who became race director in 2016, calls the event “an afternoon of fun for seasoned runners as well as families.”

“Folks love the fiesta,” she added, calling it “a relaxed and spirited time to catch up with neighbors and friends and dance to live Latino music by Primo Cubano.”

Yarmouth native Hanley Denning, a 1988 Greely graduate, found her life changed after traveling to Guatemala in 1997 to learn Spanish. She founded Safe Passage to educate children who live around the Guatemala City garbage dump.

Doug Pride, a math teacher at Greely High who ran with Denning while she was a student, became inspired to start the 5K after visiting her in Guatemala in 2004.

Denning died in 2007, at the age of 36, in a motor vehicle accident in Guatemala.

Safe Passage now provides education, social services and other opportunities to nearly 500 children, 100 mothers and more than 300 families, according to safepassage.org.

Dillon said she hopes the event will raise $25,000, which directly supports the children living in the Guatemala City garbage dump. Funds are raised through race registrations and donations.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

The Safe Passage 5K supports a program founded by Yarmouth native Hanley Denning two decades ago to bring education and hope to children living in the slums around the Guatemala City garbage dump.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.