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Community fun run in Laguna Lake Park to raise funds for Ukraine 

While Russia's war in Ukraine has fallen out of the news in recent weeks, partially due to Ukraine's stout defense, it continues to rage on and sow destruction in the country.

The focus of recent fighting has shifted to Ukraine's eastern region, where San Luis Obispo resident Kateryna Shyshlenko was born and raised.

click to enlarge HELPING ON THE GROUND  Proceeds from the Run for Ukraine fundraiser in Laguna Lake Park will go to help organizations like Olena Makhanova’s Racoons Peacekeepers, which is providing direct aid to people in Kharkiv. - PHOTO COURTESY OF RUN FOR UKRAINE SLO
  • Photo Courtesy Of Run For Ukraine SLO
  • HELPING ON THE GROUND Proceeds from the Run for Ukraine fundraiser in Laguna Lake Park will go to help organizations like Olena Makhanova’s Racoons Peacekeepers, which is providing direct aid to people in Kharkiv.

The Kharkiv native is looking to raise local awareness about the war and funds to help her family, friends, and fellow citizens in Kharkiv through a community fun run—Run for Ukraine—scheduled for Saturday, June 18, in Laguna Lake Park.

Locals can register for the family-friendly 5K run or walk at runforukraineslo.org. Registrants will be asked to make a donation to benefit two grassroots organizations in Ukraine delivering food and supplies to citizens and members of the armed forces on the ground.

"A lot of people are in need of help," said Shyshlenko, a two-year resident of SLO. "It's very hard to see how the city's getting destroyed and how people's lives are changing. We can help."

Shyshlenko has family members and friends who are living in the city of 1.4 million people. She said that the Russian attacks have destroyed much of the city, and while the bombing ebbed a few weeks ago, it's intensified again recently.

"My parents are staying there and we've been, for three months, under shelling," Shyshlenko said. "Hospitals and schools are destroyed. If you need medical help, you can't really get it because lots of hospitals are destroyed. Even the food is sometimes a question."

Living in SLO, so far away from her home country, is agonizing in these times, Shyshlenko said, which is why she's helping organize Run for Ukraine. All of the run's proceeds will go to benefit the on-the-ground volunteers in Kharkiv who can quickly turn money into action.

One aid recipient, the Racoons Peacekeepers, led by Olena Makhanova, delivers supplies to the Ukrainian military. Another recipient, Slava Nevecherja, a Kharkiv local, has helped build a network of volunteers to deliver food and aid to citizens in need.

"It's people we know," Shyshlenko said. "We know those people for sure will stay in town and be able to help."

Planning a community 5K run in SLO is no easy task, but its organizers have received support from several local volunteers and organizations. The run's fiscal sponsor is Unitarian Universalist SLO, and other sponsors include Tenet Health, Friends of Laguna Lake, and Bike SLO County.

"Everyone's been very supportive and we'd just love to see more participants sign up," said organizer Zoya Dixon, who's helped with event permitting and promotion. "I think it's serving as a way to bring people together in this space and bring something positive around what's a deeply disturbing situation. We could've done an online fundraiser, but the goal was to get people together and bring light to this space."

The run will start at 9:30 a.m., with check-in at 8:30 a.m. Parking is limited and people are encouraged to bike or carpool. Valet bike parking, courtesy of Bike SLO County, will be offered, and post-race bananas and water will be distributed thanks to Tenet Health.

Participants are encouraged to register for the run ahead of time.

"These things tend to have a way of falling out of people's frame of awareness," Dixon said of the war in Ukraine, "but that doesn't mean it's ended or people are magically better. There's still a lot of need there. We're just trying to bring the attention back to that."

Fast fact

• The SLO Roll Community Initiative is hosting an all-ages pop-up roller rink on Saturday, June 18, at the Atascadero Colony Park from 5 to 7 p.m. An adult-only skate will follow from 7 to 8 p.m. "This donation-based event will be in partnership with the first annual Atascadero Juneteenth Celebrations," according to event organizers. "Both organizations will share the parks space to create a unique community-friendly event for all to enjoy. The event will include music by DJ BrothaC, Paradise Food Truck, local Black-owned vendors and business spotlights, as well as traditional food and drink." Δ

Reach Assistant Editor Peter Johnson at pjohnson@newtimesslo.com.

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