Inglemoor High School senior Spencer Neher won last year’s CanDo 5K race. Contributed photo

CanDo 5K returns to Bothell on April 29

Runners, take your mark.

The ninth annual CanDo 5K will take place at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, April 29 at the Seattle Times North Creek facility, located at 19200 120th Ave. NE in Bothell.

Organized by My Village Northwest and the Northshore YMCA and sponsored by Woodinville Pediatric Dentistry, the 5K run/walk fundraiser benefits youth with developmental disabilities and their families.

“It really celebrates what our kids can do, all the good things that they can do and the hard work that they put in every day,” said race director Michelle Shaw. “It’s not easy for them. It just celebrates the incredible strength and courage they have, and I think that’s reflected in the race.”

The event includes a one-mile walk as well as Kids Dashes for children ages 3 to 12. Immediately following the race, the Northshore YMCA will host its annual Healthy Kids Day from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The family-friendly, free Kids Day event aims to stimulate the minds and bodies of youngsters with activities and prizes.

The CanDo 5K race is a USA Track and Field-certified course for runners and walkers of all abilities. Shaw said the event drew 800 runners in its first year. Over 1,600 registered participants took part in last year’s race and around 2,000 participants are expected this year.

More than $60,000 was raised at last year’s event, which helped fund year-round programs for My Village Northwest. The nonprofit is dedicated to creating community inclusiveness for those with special needs and their families.

Kenmore resident Deanna Neher saw her 18-year-old son, Spencer, win last year’s CanDo 5K race. Her family became involved with My Village Northwest after Spencer was diagnosed with autism 10 years ago. Her family has participated in the CanDo 5K for the past several years.

Neher said that both running and the resources provided by My Village Northwest have been “instrumental” in her family’s journey. Spencer, now an Inglemoor High School senior, comes from a household of runners. He competes on Inglemoor’s varsity cross country and track and field teams.

Neher believes that running provides a unique outlet for her son. Along with being an activity that helps calm him and give him focus, she says Spencer has been able to find a place of inclusion.

“I can’t say enough about his running community,” Neher said. “They’ve been so inclusive, and that starts with the leadership, with [Inglemoor cross country coach and track and field assistant] Kelly Richards … She’s been instrumental in including him, making sure he’s held to the same expectations and the same workout and academic requirements. She looks beyond his autism and special needs.

“That’s what is so great for him. It’s been a phenomenal community that’s allowed him to thrive socially and physically and learn from all the benefits that come from having a team.”

Neher called the CanDo 5K one of her son’s favorite races. She’ll be cheering Spencer on as he looks to repeat his first-place finish at this year’s event. She added that for her family, the race is also about celebrating the capabilities that all children have in common, as well as their ability to teach and support each other.

“It’s our way of just celebrating with our community, but also giving back and sharing Spencer’s passion for running with other people and experiencing the community that you get when you’re out there on the course,” she said.

For more on the CanDo 5K or to register, visit www.cando5k.org. Online registration closes April 26. For more on My Village Northwest, visit www.myvillagenw.org.