ML5K boosts morale, brings ESP dreams to life

The kids of Extra Special People have a dream that they will be seen for everything they can do. At the ML5K race with over 450 participants and volunteers behind them, that is exactly what happened.

On Jan.21, Extra Special People, Inc. (ESP) in partnership with HandsOn Northeast Georgia hosted the Third Annual Dream to Be Able ML5K benefitting the children of ESP.  The race raised awareness about the amazing accomplishments of individuals with developmental disabilities in the Athens community.

With 440 participants and 75 volunteers in place, the 5k race kicked off at Weaver D’s Delicious Fine Foods in Athens, Ga., and appropriately followed the MLK Parkway and Athens-Clarke County Greenway. The “Dream Dash”, a half-mile fun run or walk specifically for ESP kids, brought smiles and empowerment to those crossing the finish line.

“It was great because I pushed myself to finish the race,” ESP participant Trey Akridge said. “I liked having people cheer me on.”

Baby blue balloons and hundreds of people lined the course of the Dream Dash to cheer on the kids of ESP as children with disabilities proved just how much they are capable of. At each mile check point were groups of volunteers with homemade signs encouraging runners to push through to the finish line.

Participants received a t-shirt, meal from Weaver D’s and opportunity to walk or run in honor of children with special needs. All proceeds contributed to ESP’s after-school enrichment programs and summer camp for children with special needs.

“This was not like a typical 5k,” ML5K runner Michaela Hyland said. “Getting to watch the Dream Dash before was inspirational, and having the opportunity to run with kids with disabilities was uplifting. I can’t wait to do it again next year.”

HandsOn Northeast Georgia (NEGA) has organized local events to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. through service for the past ten years. The ML5K is one of many events hosted by HandsOn NEGA in an effort to create a better America.

The Overall Male award was presented to Ken Adams for a time of 19:43.4; Overall Female award was presented to Susan Adams for a time of 21:29.3; Overall Male Masters award was presented to Matt McKenzie for a time of 20:28.1 and Overall Female Masters was presented to Julie Thompson for a time of 24:41.9. Awards also went to the top three times in each age group ranging from 14 and under through 75 and over.

Title sponsors for the race were Central Presbyterian Church, Athens Banner-Herald, Athens Orthopedic Clinic and Waugh & Allen. Additional sponsors include Athens Dentistry for Children, Satisfactory Printing and Design, Taylor Made Smiles, Bella Salon, Zaxby’s, Lambda Chi Alpha, Southern Protective Group, Oconee Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation, Union Christian Church, Uniforms Unlimited, Frameworks Unlimited, The Pennington Group, Global Escapes, Dr. Tom Goggin and Earthworks.

For additional information or questions about Extra Special People, contact Jordan Beaman at