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An estimated 210 runners and walkers took part Saturday morning in an annual 5K run and walk that Amy Ellis and her husband, Jason, started with some friends three years ago to support Down syndrome research.
Among the walkers were the Ellis’ older son, Hunter, who has Down syndrome, his brother, Parker, and Amy.
This year the race was held in honor of Amy’s husband, Bardstown Police Officer Jason Ellis, who died in the line of duty in May.
Josh Thomas, who coordinated the event, said the race was moved from Bloomfield to Bardstown this year to accommodate more runners. In the past, the race benefited the Down Syndrome Research Institute in Louisville, but this year’s beneficiaries will be Research Down Syndrome, a national non-profit, and Supporting Heroes, a Kentucky-Indiana group that helps spouses and survivors of fallen police officers.
Thomas, a teacher at Bardstown Middle School and friend of the Ellis family, said Monday he and other organizers deliberately set this year’s fundraising goal high — $3,000 for each group — but they exceeded that, garnering $6,500 before the final tally expected sometime next week.
“We were definitely pleased with that,” he said.
He was also pleased with the atmosphere.
“Everywhere I looked, I saw smiles,” he said.
Many of those who participated were members of the Ellis family, their friends, neighbors, coworkers, and people who knew Jason, or didn’t know him but wanted to come out and honor him and show their support, Thomas said.
Amy Ellis was smiling after she crossed the finish line.
“We want to thank everyone who came out to support these causes,” she said. “Both (of the organizations) are very dear to my heart, and they were to Jason’s heart as well.”
Also participating in the 5K was Figo, who had been Jason Ellis’ partner as a canine officer. The German shepherd’s handler was Amy’s mom, Kris Phillips.
She lives near Amy and her children.
“It means a lot to see the community support, and I think it sends a clear message that we’re not going to forget,” Phillips said. “It gives us strength to carry on.”
Jeni Sue Ockerman, who, together with Amy, organized the first race in 2011 in Bloomfield, was also overwhelmed by the support.
“It’s pretty amazing,” she said.
Brandon Price, who runs on the cross country and track teams for Bardstown High School, was the overall winner of the race with a time of 18:55. Sarah Koehler, a speech therapist for Bardstown Primary School, had the best time among the women runners, 18:55.
Second- and third-place winners among the men were Bradley Medley and Patrick Quire, and for the women, Beth Clark and Madison Catlett.
All the winners were from Bardstown or Nelson County.
Anyone who didn’t make it to the race but would like to contribute may make out a check to BMS 5K c/o Josh Thomas or Amy White, and mail it to Bardstown Middle School 410 N. Fifth St., Bardstown, KY 40004.