Inspired by the Gospel Run in Chicago, Uchenna Jones, a nurse at SSM Health, saw a need to bring a similar initiative and principles to the Madison and Dane County community in 2019. The principles of faith, fellowship, and fitness are what helped set the footing of the Madison Gospel 5k Foundation, a charitable organization that focuses on the health and wellbeing of families of color.
As the founder and executive director of the foundation, Jones, along with a planning committee and board members, are preparing for the fourth annual Gospel 5k walk and run to take place on Saturday, July 16, at Penn Park on Madison’s South Side, from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm. Through sponsorships with different organizations, including SSM Health, Movin’ Shoes, and the UW Carbone Cancer Center, guests will be able to enjoy different components of the event, both virtually and in-person, including a health fair, the kid’s family-run, the 1-mile stride, the original 5k walk or run, and a new 10k walk or run category.
Aside from these components, the Madison Gospel 5k has also partnered up with Ainsley’s Angels, an organization focused on building awareness on America’s special needs community, and has helped to ensure that everyone in Dane County, regardless of ability, can enjoy this endurance event.
“If there’s anybody out there that wants to participate, and for those who want to be pushed, they’ll be considered the ‘riders.’ They can sign up for free. That’s our gift to them and their families,” Jones said of the partnership with Ainsley’s Angels. “And then there’ll be ‘Angels,’ pushers that will push them so that they can have the same experience as those who are walking and running.”
The Madison Gospel 5k Run and Walk has created a space where families of different backgrounds can come together and adopt the principles of Faith, Fellowship, and Fitness in order to improve the community and help uplift Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC). Most importantly, the event takes place in July, which is recognized as BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month, allowing the 5k run and walk to especially promote more awareness about the topic.
With COVID-19 and other traumatic events affecting the well-being and mental health of communities of color across the nation, the Madison Gospel 5k hopes to provide a stress-relieving event for families, which will also serve as a “one-stop shop” of resources and information at its joint Health Fair. Due to its high demand and importance, the foundation was able to host the walk and run during the midst of the pandemic, and was successful in bringing families together without any reported cases.
“We’re hoping that our event is more stress-relieving. We get to celebrate one another, we get to love on each other, and recognize and say, ‘hey, I see you. Let’s celebrate together.’ And then when the event is all said and done, throughout the year [we] create activities and opportunities so that we can come together in smaller spaces and to continue to work until we are able to come back out and do it again,” Jones said.
The activities and opportunities Jones references include their Focus on Family program. This programming creates events that focus on the eight dimensions of health and wellness as it pertains to individuals who are looking to create routines as opposed to “resolutions” that aren’t always kept. Similar to the 5k walk and run, these activities will bring the community together, either virtually or in person, to allow access to resources, knowledgeable guest speakers, and conversations on the importance of the health and well-being of BIPOC.
“I believe a lot of systemic issues, racial issues that we have, can be solved by the community. And the way to do it is for institutions, businesses, and organizations to actually sit and hear what the community has to say. And the way to do it is participating in organizations, nonprofits that are doing the work,” Jones said. “It just takes that pressure off, where we can all come together, break bread, if you will, and hear, actually hear, what the needs are. Hear what the community is suggesting, and work on implementing it or finding a happy medium, which I believe we can achieve.”
For more information or to register for the event, visit www.madisongospel5kfoundation.com.