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Students Plan May 1 Run, Walk to Benefit Ugandan Orphans

A 5K race and family fun walk Sunday, May 1 at the University of Maine is one of several fundraising activities two students have planned to raise money for children at a Ugandan orphanage.

The race, organized by friends and former high school runners Dee Wilbur and Ben Brennan, starts at 2 p.m., beginning and ending at the UMaine Student Recreation and Fitness Center.

Donations collected will help pay for children’s school  uniforms, additional teachers, books and classroom materials at the New Grace School and Orphanage in Iganga, Uganda, where Wilbur spent time doing volunteer work and teaching between high school and college in 2009. A small amount of money goes a long way in Uganda, she says. For example, an additional teacher can be hired for $150 per year.

Wilbur, of Bangor and an international affairs, anthropology and secondary education triple major, says seeing the 700 children, ages 3-14, living in poverty at the orphanage inspired her to take steps to help in any way she could. UMaine classmates Ben Brennan, a business major from Freeport, and political science major Chris Pederson of Hampden joined the cause.

“The orphanage and school operate on a very small budget,” Wilbur says. “The children are allowed only two meals per day. The classrooms are very crowded and there is no money for furniture; the children sit on the floor. There are very few supplies and books are even rarer. The concrete walls serve as a chalkboard.

“Bunk beds are stacked three high in the dormitory and the children have one small trunk in which to house all of their belongings,” she adds. “Despite these conditions, the children are very loving and are often smiling.”

Wilbur and Brennan founded a non-profit organization called SONG (Sponsorship of New Grace) as a vehicle to raise money. They plan to travel to Uganda in August to oversee the purchase and delivery of school supplies and to volunteer time and labor renovating the school.

Registration for the SONG 5K walk-run has been accessible online at www.song5k.com. Late registration the day of the race and name and number pick up will be at the Recreation Center from 12-1:30 p.m. on May 1. Runners must be there by 1:30 p.m. Online registration forms, entry fees and other details are available on the web. Questions can be addressed and emailed to Sponsorshipofnewgrace@gmail.com.

In addition to the race-walk, a “Book and a Buck” campaign, a “letters to New Grace” campaign and a talent show May 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Bangor, featuring youth and young adults from the Greater Bangor, area are planned. Donations also can be made at the Bangor Redemption & Beverage Center and at Burby & Bates in Orono.

Contact: Dee Wilbur, (207) 570-3454

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