2006-06-01 / Front Page

Ali's 5K run to step off Sunday

By Sam Bari

Sixteen years ago, Rob Packer and his wife Maureen moved to Jamestown with their daughter, Ali. A few years later, Caroline, who is now nine, was born. They bought a home and lived the American dream. Then, in 2001, Ali Dunn Packer lost her life in a tragic automobile accident at the young age of 15.

How does a family recover from a tragedy of this magnitude? Is it possible? The Packers are living proof that a strong family unit is resilient. They did not let this unthinkable catastrophe destroy their lives. They put the spin on tragedy and turned disaster into a positive, caring experience that helped them heal, the community heal, and kept the memory of Ali alive and well in the hearts and minds of all who knew her. Acting on a suggestion from her brother Mark, Maureen organized the Ali Dunn Packer Memorial Road Race, fondly known by Jamestown residents as Ali's Run.

The 5k run/walk and half-mile kids run is an annual benefit held on the first Sunday in June in memory of Allison Dunn Packer. The race raises funds for youths who wish to pursue their interests in education, athletics, and the fine arts. This year is the fifth running of the enormously successful event.

"The mission of the race is to celebrate the life and memory of Ali by promoting an annual firstclass community family-oriented event consistent with Ali's personality and interests," said Maureen.

She went on to say that Ali played on both Jamestown and North Kingstown soccer teams. Ali was a member of the Rhode Island Olympic Development soccer team as well. At the time of her death, Ali was a freshman at LaSalle Academy in Providence where she excelled in both soccer and track, finishing second in the 4x100 and 4x400 relay events at the Freshman State Championship.

For the first race, Maureen consulted with friends who were experienced runners and involved in racing. Then she called Jamestown Police Chief Thomas Tighe, who helped her get started with support from the town and sanctioning from USA Track and Field. Traffic restrictions for Sunday's event

The 5K race will proceed from Fort Getty Park, past Mackerel Cove to Southwest Avenue to Narragansett Avenue. The course then turns east on Narragansett Avenue, right on Howland Avenue, south onto Hamilton Avenue, and returns to Fort Getty via Beavertail Road. Traffic will be limited on these streets during the 5k run and walk.

At first, the organizational tasks seemed overwhelming, but with the help of a race committee of 11 people, Maureen's husband Rob, and 75 additional volunteers on race weekend, they've managed to pull off successful events since the first race. The benefit has averaged $15,000 every year to disburse to various charities, events, and causes.

"The 75 volunteers are invaluable," Maureen said. "They help with the registrations, the shoots, the kids' run, and the setup of the pavilion at Fort Getty. Many bring complementary food. Gregg's Restaurant in North Kingstown donates the meat, and that includes chicken, sausages, and hamburgers. The volunteers man the water stations, the medical tent, and even provide photography. The Food Bank shows up on Friday night before the race with their truck, and they help us prepare for Sunday morning. They haul all the food to Fort Getty and help with the cleanup afterwards. In return, we donate money to their kids cafe program. Plus, we have sponsors from across the state that are too numerous to mention," she added.

"It takes us from January to June to put the race together and collect the entry fees and donations. Then it takes the remaining six months to disburse the funds to worthy causes," Maureen noted. "We even donate to the cross-country track programs at Wickford and Davisville Middle Schools, and North Kingstown High School because their athletic budgets have been severely cut," she said.

"This year 150 runners have already registered. Most register on the day of the event. I expect about 300 or so, that seems to be the average over the last four years," Maureen said.

The 5k USATF-certified race is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Sunday, June 4, at Fort Getty Park. Music, food, prizes, and activities for the whole family will begin at noon. A half-mile Fun Run for children under 10 will take place at noon with all participants receiving medals. Complimentary lunch will be provided for all runners and walkers, and the first 300 applicants get free race T-shirts. For more information, log on to www.alisrun.com on the Internet or call 423-9695.

Return to top