About 70 runners and walkers gathered at Liberty State Park in Jersey City on Saturday morning for a 5k charity run to raise money to support families in Ukraine more than six months after Russia invaded.
Held four days after Ukraine’s Independence Day, the event raised more than $2,000 to buy toys, medical supplies and first aid for an orphanage in Lviv, as well as help building a bomb shelter for the orphanage located in a former school for the deaf, said organizer Oksana Condon, president of UkraineJersey Citya non-profit organization that promotes Ukrainian culture and education in Jersey City.
“To ensure that they have a good time at school and that they can continue with school, we help them convert the basement into an air-raid shelter, which requires specific doors, specific treatment, to that they can stay there and during the sirens that they can still learn and grow,” Condon said.
The nonprofit also received a $5,000 grant from the Richmond County Savings Foundation to help purchase an ambulance in Ukraine.
The second annual Vyshyvanka race is named after the traditional embroidered shirts, flowing white tops with colorful stitching patterns worn by some of the race participants – including Chili, a small brown and white dog covered in a white number and red with tassels swaying as he trotted down the sidewalk. The charity event took place days after the 31st anniversary of Ukraine issuing its declaration of independence in 1991.
Bouquets of yellow and blue balloons – the colors of the Ukrainian flag – framed the race course overlooking the Statue of Liberty and 13 massive flagpoles supporting fluttering American flags. Racegoers wore flower crowns with ribbons and letter bead bracelets with “RUN UJC” printed in black text on white cubes. Before the race, men and women wearing Vyshyvanka sports tops and bottoms warmed up with a Zumba aerobics-like sequence.
Irena Lerman left Kyiv in May and joined the Ukrainian community in Jersey City, where she said everyone was welcoming.
“We have already faced war in Kyiv,” Lerman said. “Ukraine will definitely win.”
It was Lerman’s first time in a race, which went “better than expected,” especially since she accidentally raced with a group of more experienced runners.
New Jersey is home to approximately 57,600 people of Ukrainian ancestry, fourth of all states behind New York, California and Pennsylvania, according to 2019 U.S. Census data. About 16,000 people in New Jersey were born in Ukraine, according to census figures .
Nearly two out of three Ukrainian children have been displaced amid the fighting, United Nations estimates.