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Owen Sheetz is a 16-year-old junior at Lebanon High School and normally runs cross country and track & field for the school team. Then, along came the COVID-19 crisis and the school track season was shut down. His own class 5K run was also cancelled.

Owen needed a way to continue running and help his local community. So, he set up a virtual 5K run.

A virtual 5K run is like a regular 5K, except the runners are not in the same place at the same time. Using an independent website, participants sign up, then run their own 5K during a certain time frame, time it themselves and submit that information to a website where the results are posted. All donations are linked directly to United Way of Lebanon County (UWLC).

“It all started after I joined a national virtual 5K run which benefited national food banks during the pandemic,” Sheetz told LebTown. “I decided to start a virtual 5K to raise money for my community in some sort of way. I did some research and found the United Way Community Support Fund.”

Read More: United Way of Lebanon County launches coronavirus fund, information resource

The fund was recently established by United Way of Lebanon County to benefit those who need help during the pandemic who may not get help through normal programs. UWLC agreed to accept his project and see it through.

Word travels fast in the running community, and before too long, Owen had 30 runners signed up for his virtual 5K run—mostly from around the area, but from as far away as San Francisco and Canada. Although there was no cost to participate, runners and others were generous with their donations as the United Way Community Support Fund received $1,460.

UWLC Marketing Director Flame Vo applauded the initiative.

“It’s so great to see our younger community members stepping up to help their neighbors,” she told LebTown.

The only cost was Owen’s time. UWLC set up the website for the financial transactions, and Tom Pearson, Owen’s coach, helped him find the website for the signups.

Good job, Owen! Keep up the good work.

Read all of LebTown’s COVID-19 coverage here.

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