The Everyone Can Play 5K was an all-inclusive event that was developed by the Utica College Physical Therapy (PT) Society in the Spring of 2018. My name is Alexis Lancaster and I am the former president of the student organization. This event was the culmination of my year of leadership and the most rewarding experience thus far as a DPT student. My goals are to spread awareness about the need for all-inclusive events and to inspire those interested to develop an #EveryoneCanPlay5K in their area.

The Everyone Can Play 5K would not have been possible without the best possible volunteer team, our sponsors, and our race director. The inaugural race director was Erik Winberg, a 2019 DPT candidate at Utica College and former Cross Country and Track and Field athlete. The PT Society executive board knew that his passion and attention to small details would ultimately lead to the success of the event.

Erik utilized his former racing experiences and multiple local connections to establish the best possible race design. The Everyone Can Play 5K team determined that registration options would include 1/2- mile, 1-mile, and 3.1-mile options for participants. The race course was chosen based on accessibility for those using wheelchairs, standers, walkers, canes, and all other assistive devices. The support we received from many organizations, large businesses, and small practice owners allowed the event to run successfully and for that, we are so appreciative.

Nothing could have prepared us all for the joy we would experience on race day. We knew we’d have over 100 people at the inaugural race, but what we didn’t know was the influence we would have on families, outside organizations, and our own PT Society members. One participant rode in her wheelchair for most of the 5K and finished the race walking with a family member and our PT Society faculty mentor assisting her. A child with cerebral palsy was pushed by his older brother through part of the half-mile and finished the race walking with help of his father. Attendees said they had never seen anything as heart-warming as this event and they were thankful they, their children, and their friends were welcomed at the event and could participate together, no matter their age or ability. A volunteer who was posted at a mid-way drink station said that many runners expressed how appreciative they were of the race as they went by her.

It was the support of volunteers and attendees at the finish line, the endless clapping and cheering along the course, and watching everyone cross the finish line that made this event so incredible. A participant said, “I crossed the finish line. No one ever even let me try a race before in my life… You let me try to be in a real race.” We know that our team empowered people of all abilities to achieve what they may have never thought possible otherwise, and for that, we are extremely grateful.

We would love for you to develop an #EveryoneCanPlay5K in your local area and we want to give you some tools to help you along the way. Please see the included link below for a comprehensive supply list for the event. What started as a simple grassroots service opportunity ended up being a very heartwarming and inspiring event that the community wants to continue. We thank everyone involved for their collaborative effort, as the Everyone Can Play 5K wouldn’t have been successful without you all!

Please use the link below for a comprehensive supply list for the #EveryoneCanPlay5K and both Erik and my
contact information below. Feel free to reach out with any questions you may have!

Supply List:

Alexis Lancaster
Twitter: @lexlancaster_

Erik Winberg
Twitter: @E_Win_7