For Karen Lofgren and her family, who have long lived in Wantagh, the John Theissen Children’s Foundation holds a special place in their hearts.
“My family has lived in Wantagh for 48 years,” Lofgren said, “and we’ve been involved with the foundation for many years.”
Lofgren’s family is sponsoring this year’s Freaky 5K Walk and .25 Mile Trick or Treat Trot, two Halloween-themed fundraisers organized by the nonprofit. All proceeds from the walk, scheduled for October 17, will go to the foundation’s wish program, linked to the Make A Wish Foundation, which grants the wishes of children with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.
Lofgren will sponsor, she said, to honor the memory of her father, Bob Nicosia, who died in October 2008 from a 9/11-related illness. “Raising funds for such an important cause as this foundation is a credit to our family and to Bob,” Lofgren said. “We hope all our family and friends will remember Bob in their prayers and memories by supporting this event and competing in the races.”
Wantagh founder John Theissen said the ninth annual event is something “the whole neighborhood is looking forward to”.
“We have a lot of residents standing outside their front doors waiting for the runners to pass so they can cheer us on,” Theissen said. “The community is always very supportive and the 5km walk is always a great time.”
The “freaky” race starts at 8:30am behind the foundation’s headquarters, the John Theissen Family Fun Center, on 1881 Wantagh Ave. The racers drive up Park Avenue and continue through Wantagh’s backstreets, ending in the car park behind the Centre.
The timed walk includes water stops, mile marketers, and clocks for runners. There is a candy stop at the 1.5 mile marker. Runners can stop here and grab Halloween candies, which are especially popular with families with children, Theissen said. Refreshments are also available for the runners along the finish.
Prior to the walk, from 8:30 am to 8:30 am, children under the age of 10 are invited to participate in the “Trick or Trot”. At the end of the race, each child will receive a goodie bag.
“This event is perfect for both competitive runners and those who want to walk for fun,” explains Theissen. “We have top athletes who want to run and see their best time and we have families who just want to get out and have a nice casual walk around Wantagh.”
All participants are encouraged to dress up in Halloween costumes to win prizes for best costume in three categories: adults 18 years and older, children and teens 10-17 years old, and children under 10 years old.
Tickets to join the walk are $20 if pre-registered on the foundation’s website. Entry costs $25 if purchased on the day of the event. Long sleeve shirts will also be distributed to the first 700 registrants.
Corey Roberts, manager of Baldwin-based events company Race Awesome Inc., said he works closely with the John Theissen Foundation and is looking forward to this year’s walk.
“We’re really excited for the walk to be back,” Roberts said. “It didn’t happen last year because of Covid-19, and we’re super happy to be involved again and raise money for underprivileged children.”
Roberts, who lives in Baldwin, hosts races all over Long Island to raise money for several charities, such as the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research and the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance. He has also been working with the John Theissen Foundation since 2014, helping them organize their 5k walk every year.
“We’re always looking for charities that are doing really great things in our local community,” says Roberts, “that’s why we chose to work with John. … he does a tremendous amount of work to help our local community.”