MOUNT DESERT — Favorable weather and strong community support for the cause contributed to high turnout Saturday for the annual Sea of Blue Autism Awareness 5K run and walk in Northeast Harbor.
Sixty-six runners, ages 10 to 79, completed the run. More than 100 walkers participated this year, and many brought dogs to join in the fun.
The event is organized by Chris Heel, who put together the first run and walk five years ago as his Senior Exhibition project at Mount Desert Island High School. It’s a fundraiser for organizations that support people with autism, especially Downeast Horizons, Special Children’s Friends and the Autism Society of Maine.
Judson Cake of Bar Harbor was the first across the line in the 5K, with a time of 17 minutes, 15 seconds. Halley Vaye Faccnol of Ellsworth was the first female finisher, in 21:31. Laura Anderson of Bar Harbor and her dog Buckwheat had a time of 25:56, making Buckwheat the repeat dog winner.
Some youngsters were among the fastest in the race, too. Evan Merchant, 16, of Beals finished fifth overall with his time of 20:24. Liam McKernah, 11, finished 13th. He was one of five 10- and 11-year-olds in the 5K.
Susan Heel, Chris Heel’s mother, said the event has enjoyed amazing community support. Many runners and walkers have participated every year, and this year, many new participants joined the fun.
“Chris is adamant about keeping it in Northeast Harbor,” she said, “even though he lives in Bar Harbor [at the new Parish House facility] now. He says, ‘This is my hometown.'”
They hope to add a shorter fun run for kids next year.