Mardi Gras 5K benefits Guadalupe Center
     2016-02-26      By Frank Marquez    editor@geringcitizen.com
Frank Marquez/Gering Citizen Race winner Geoff Groskopf finishes just ahead of Max Lopez. 
On a crisp, sunny Sunday afternoon, not too far removed from winter weather, more than a hundred runners made a 5-kilometer trek along the Monument Valley Pathway, near the Scottsbluff YMCA, where the Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church invited the community to run and walk in its first Mardi Gras 5K fundraiser.

Ultimately, the church group raised $1,000.

Jose Gonzalez, the center’s custodian, organized the race at the behest of Father Jonathan D. Sorenson, who said “get it going,” when Gonzalez suggested the idea. Gonzalez, whose entire family turned out to volunteer, said the funds would go toward making repairs and improvements to the center, which has been a local institution tended to by a largely Hispanic neighborhood in southeast Scottsbluff.

“It’s a place where the community can go for a lot of different things,” Gonzalez said. Over time, the center has served as gymnasium for boxers, a food pantry, and a hall for wedding receptions. It also has been a place where the homeless and needy can come for meals during the holidays.

“It makes all the difference in the world with people who are struggling. It’s my turn to give back,” said Gonzalez, who is working toward a license for alcohol and drug addiction counseling. “You are going to see us doing a lot more. All you have to do is turn on the radio or TV to learn about the world’s troubles. It’s time to start doing things for the community – that’s my aim and ambition.”

Runners also brought their fans. Monica Amaro, wearing a Columbia sweater to ward off the chill of stiff breeze, stood with her friend Socorro Rios near the finish line of the race. They were there to cheer their husbands, Mateo and Carlos, both 40-somethings.

A host of volunteers, which included Tasha Tollefson, 4-year-old Adric Gonzalez, and Cassie Murrell, dressed in bright yellow race shirts, colorful beads and other adornments, directed runners and handed out bottles of water. “We’re here to help,” said Murrell, who when they weren’t directing runners, were taking a selfie with her group of kind-hearted volunteers to record their presence at the event. “Just ask anyone wearing yellow shirt.”

Overall winner Geoff Groskopf, 29, of nearby Bayard, finished the race in 19:03. The former high school running back and linebacker said he wanted to run one of the first races of the season, and glad was for it was a “good cause.”

Groskopf edged second place finisher Max Lopez who had an unofficial time of 19:06, and third place finisher Nick Fedoroff (21:10).

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