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NARRAGANSETT - Walkers and runners of all ages joined together at the Katie DeCubellis Memorial Fund (KDMF) race on Sunday to help raise awareness about the dangers of drinking and distracted driving. The 5K race was in honor of Katie DeCubellis, who was killed by a drunk driver when she was 13 years old in October 1999.
More than 400 runners and walkers participated in the race and the event also included face painting, an inflatable bounce, raffles and music. This year the top three winners were North Kingstown resident Joe Siravo, Wakefield resident Diane Senecal, and the eventâs first wheelchair participant and East Greenwich resident, John Taylor.
John DeCubellis, executive director of the KDMF and father of Katie DeCubellis, said this is the organizationâs 14th year sponsoring the event, and it all began as a way to help heal the community.
âOriginally it was shortly after and the community was still reeling from everything that happened because both Katie and Marsha Bowman were killed and so it was just kind of a way to bring the whole community together and more of a social thing to remember Marsha and Katie and be able to just bring everybody together,â said DeCubellis. âIt certainly wasnât for a fundraiser, and then it ended up being so successful. At that point it just became a nice family event and we wanted to continue it as a way every year to bring everyone together again.â
According to DeCubellis, more than 1,000 people and more than 800 runners participated in the first race that the organization sponsored. Rain or shine, DeCubellis said that the event always has a great turnout and is very uplifting.
Shortly after the first event, members of the KDMF began receiving a generous amount of support from the community and began to raise money as a way to help fund the organizationâs initiatives including drunk driving awareness and the annual KDMF scholarships. The KDMF has awarded more than $300,000 in scholarships, prizes and donations.
The organization also holds a KDMF writing contest annually every May and both John and Meg DeCubellis have given presentations in schools throughout the country spreading the importance of good decision making.
âWe focus on everyone having a good time and remembering Katie and Marsha and awareness. Itâs all about awareness. Every time someone is wearing one of our shirts or bracelets or sees one, hopefully if that person is going to make an impulsive or bad decision it causes them to make a better decision,â said DeCubellis.
Rhode Island resident Celeste Corcoran was Katie DeCubellisâ pediatrician and one of the many community members present during Sundayâs event. Corcoran said she has been running in the event since it started in 2000 and this was her first year as a member of the foundation.
âI have been doing this for 14 years and it is a great foundation that supports students with their scholarly efforts. It is also a great family event and fun for everyone,â said Corcoran. âI really hope to continue to spread the message on the importance of educating teens and adults about driving under the influence.â
University of Rhode Island student and basketball player, Emilie Cloutier joined her team mates of the URI Womenâs Basketball team while they helped prepare for the race and showed their support. Cloutier said this is her third year participating in the race and she enjoys giving back to the community.
âThe DeCubellis family is such a big fan of ours and we really appreciate everything they do, and we are happy to help support them and this great cause,â said Cloutier.
The KDMF has already spread awareness to more than 100,000 students and adults throughout the country and hope to continue to spread their message that states the choices each of us make every day shape our lives, for better or for worse.
âThe message that we want people to get out of the race and everything that we do is that drunk driving fatalities and injuries, and even just distracted driving fatalities are one hundred percent avoidable,â said DeCubellis. âIf everyone just thought of others instead of themselves and made responsible decisions then there wouldnât be any need for what we do and so many people would be here that arenât here now because somebody made a selfish decision and ended their lives.â