In a twist, Tri-C hosts newly-expanded “Autumn Blaze” 5k, in an effort to bring together members of the wider community.
By Jonathan Beard
Cuyahoga Community College once again hosted its annual “Autumn Blaze” 5k charity at the Western Campus in Parma, OH on Saturday, September 30, 2023. This year, the event, held from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., included something different: a festival, complete with yoga, activities for children, and a DJ.
This was a first in the Autumn Blaze’s nine-year history, and was well received by participants, including Asia Villafanez, a Lorain, OH resident who participated with her son, Xaivion Villafanez. “It’s awesome, we got to have hot dogs, burgers and stuff, so it was pretty good.” said Asia Villafanez, who placed first in the race for her age group. “Nice people, nice vibes, everybody seems pretty cool, so I feel it turned out pretty great.” said Xaivion Villafanez.
Many of the attendees brought their children to the event, such as Suzanne Ortie, a Tri-C employee. “We had a lot of people running and walking and a lot of different people with families with them.” said Ortie, “And then it was nice that they had the festival for kids to be able to have some fun.”
Several Tri-C employees participated in the festival, such as Erika Bell, director of the Access Center. “I like to get to see my colleagues outside of work and chat, just enjoy the campus, get exercise, bring our families.” said Bell.
Chris Faciana, program director at Tri-C’s Sports and Exercise Studies program, said the changes were meant to help bring people together. “We really didn’t want to exclude anybody in this type of event. We just wanted to build a strong, Tri-C community.” said Faciana, who has been with Tri-C for the past 12 years.
Throughout his time with the college, Faciana has seen the Autumn Blaze continue throughout the years. “The great thing with this kind of event, he says, “is it’s open to anybody. We have obviously have the serious runners who will benefit from it. But then we also want to encourage walkers to come out as well.”
The Autumn Blaze even ran during the COVID-19 pandemic, albeit with changes meant to keep participants safe. “We actually ended up doing a virtual 5K. Our runners were able to download their race bit, print it out, and then pick any route that they wanted and then upload their results on a database.” explained Faciana. “So we actually never did shut down with COVID.”
As Tri-C continues its post-pandemic growth, the Autumn Blaze saw an increase in attendance. Last year we had 120 registrants, and as of this morning we had 210. So it’s almost double where we were last year.” Faciana said. Attendees were hopeful this trend would continue. “It’s just about getting people here and networking and seeing what’s going on and having fun.” said Asia Villafenez. “The more that they can do that, the more people will come out with students and the community to donate and be a part of the growth.”
When asked what his plans were for the future, Faciana said he was hopeful for further growth in the event. “We always want more people, but really to keep people engaged in the Tri-C community, have them come to campus and enjoy our facilities and have fun.”