Running for a cause: Crim racers aim to raise awareness, honor loved ones, achieve goals

FLINT, MI –– Mike Novak hit the streets of Flint with purpose on Saturday for the HAP Crim Festival of Races, aiming to raise awareness about mental health issues.

“I think there is too much of a stigma around it, especially for men’s mental health awareness,” Novak said. I think it is important that we stop the stigma that men aren’t allowed to have mental health issues, that children aren’t allowed to have mental health issues.”

Novak said we have all been through a difficult COVID-19 pandemic and as we come out of it “seeking help is not a weakness, it’s a strength and people just need to have the courage to do that.”

Thousands of people participated in the 46th annual Crim event on Saturday, Aug. 26, and many walked or ran for causes like cancer, mental health and Alzheimer’s disease, or in honor of loved ones who have died, to achieve personal goals, or simply to stay in shape. They all had their reason why.

Related: ‘It gives me hope’: Blind, retired veteran finishes his first 10-mile Crim race

Mark Graham raced with his son Jake Graham, in memory of his granddaughter and Jake’s goddaughter, Leah LaCroix, who died of cancer at age 2. They wore shirts that said “Leah’s Guys” with a monkey on the front and a quote on the back.

“When her baby sister was crying, she would say to her ‘Julia, don’t have a sad day have a happy day’ and so that kind of stuck with us,” Mark Graham said.

The pair hoped to raise awareness for child cancer in honor of Leah.

Volunteers and residents were out in full force to support the more than 8,000 Crim participants, offering water and sharing words of encouragement to walkers and runners along the route.

Related: See 200 photos from the 46th annual HAP Crim Festival of Races

Matt Washington, a Flint native, passed out water at the halfway point. He said he started coming to the Crim races as little kid with his grandmother.

“I am a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha incorporated, just here supporting the great runners,” Washington said. “People from all over the United States and even beyond come to our great city of Flint to participate in a world-renowned race.”

Will and Barb Shoemaker handed out cups of ice water at their house and doused lucky runners with the mist of their hose.

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