Ohio student spearheads 5K race for Sandy relief

Between play practice, track meets and soccer games, Christy Finney, a high school senior in Urbana, Ohio, is making time to organize her community for a 5K race this spring to support Hurricane Sandy survivors through the work of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).

Ms. Finney, 18, is a member of Urbana United Methodist Church and the congregation’s youth group. “After seeing the devastating effects on the lives of people impacted by Hurricane Sandy,” she said, “I decided I wanted to help them.”

So often, she said, survivors of disasters like Sandy, which roared up from the Caribbean and barreled along the U.S. East Coast last October, are forgotten months after the initial crisis.

“But they are still struggling. I felt it was a way to be the hands and feet of Jesus,” Ms. Finney said about organizing the race.

High school senior Christy Finney has organized a 5K race in her hometown of Urbana, Ohio, to raise funds for United Methodist recovery efforts in regions hit last fall by Hurricane Sandy. COURTESY PHOTO

The 5K event will be held on Saturday, May 11, beginning at 8:00 a.m. Participants will run or walk through Urbana City Park after first congregating at the local YMCA, which is co-sponsoring the race.

Funds from the $15 entrance fee will support UMCOR’s U.S. Disaster Response unit, which is helping Superstorm Sandy survivors in New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Connecticut, as well as in the Caribbean, to recover and rebuild.

Since the storm, UMCOR grants to United Methodist annual conferences in these states plus Eastern Pennsylvania and Virginia have provided survivors with more than 70,000 meals; shelter for more than 5,000 people; 23,000 cleaning buckets; the mucking out of more than 1,000 homes; and spiritual and emotional care for thousands of affected people.

More than 4,200 volunteers have given over 60,000 hours in volunteer time to help storm survivors in New York, New Jersey and Maryland alone.

UMCOR is a ministry of the United Methodist Church and its goal is to assist the most vulnerable people affected by a crisis or chronic need without regard to their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. UMCOR works in more than 80 countries.


‘More than one way’


For the Rev. Tom Hazelwood, who heads UMCOR’s U.S. Disaster Response unit, the timing of Ms. Finney’s 5K could not be better.

“As spring moves in and the weather improves, more volunteer recovery teams will want to help. We’ll see a significant increase in the pace of recovery,” he said.

“Christy’s initiative shows that there is more than one way that individuals, churches, and communities can respond to a disaster,” Mr. Hazelwood added. “What Christy is doing is every bit as important—and as complex—as putting together a team to go to the disaster and muck out.”

Landon Taylor, church relations manager for UMCOR, has been in contact with Ms. Finney since, at the urging of her pastor and her youth pastor, she first approached UMCOR about the race. Mr. Taylor said UMCOR is seeking to provide a display and a speaker at the event, and he praised Ms. Finney’s initiative.

“I feel it’s important to young people today to find meaningful ways to live out their faith, to build community, and to be an advocate for justice in this world. Christy is a shining example of what one person can do to bring hope to those affected by disaster,” Mr. Taylor said.


Community support


“I have not organized anything this big,” Ms. Finney said, adding that she has helped put together smaller events at the YMCA and at school, and has participated with her family in bike rides, walks, and runs for the Y and her church. “I hope to find the resources I need to make this an effective event for the causes we aim to help,” she said.

Ms. Finney, who will start college in the fall and looks forward to eventually earning a doctorate in her chosen field, physical therapy, underscored that her friends, fellow parishioners at Urbana UMC, and the local community have been very supportive. The help she has had from the YMCA in organizing the event, she said, “is a blessing.”

She said she hopes the 5K event for UMCOR will give participants a sense of the “importance of community, as they reach out of their busy lives to help out those who need a little support. I also hope they get motivated to stay healthy and active through events like this.

“Something that also is important in big events is fellowship,” Ms. Finney added. “As community members and people from all over gather, they can share their stories, laugh and have a good time for a good cause. I hope they realize that small acts of kindness do make a difference.”

Ms. Unger is senior writer for the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

Special Contributor to UMR

Special Contributor

This story was written by a special contributor to The United Methodist Reporter. You may send your article submissions to

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