CLEARWATER – Organizers of the first Phil Doganiero 3 Bridge Race hope hundreds of runners participate and the event becomes an annual affair that will last for decades. It is all to help young people in the city.
The race, which is being held on Nov. 11, has been organized by the Clearwater for Youth organization whose mission it is to make sure no child is turned away due to financial concerns.
Dawn Daugherty, a board member of CFY, says this year’s race involves a half marathon, a 5K race and a 1-mile fun run. She said they got their feet wet last year with a scaled down version of the race.
“Last year we did a 5K race, the Sports Fan 5K,” she said. “It was an introduction race to see how it would go; it became apparent that we could do it.”
This year’s race is named in honor of Phil Doganiero, a Belleair resident and a man who was heavily involved in youth sports and Clearwater for Youth for many years. He passed away at the age of 58 in 2015.
All three races begin and end at Coachman Park in downtown Clearwater. The half marathon is the race that fulfills the name “3 Bridge” as it goes over the Memorial Causeway Bridge, the Sand Key Bridge and the Belleair Causeway Bridge.
It is all in aid of the programs of Clearwater for Youth. Daugherty says the organization fills a wide variety of needs in the community.
“We do everything from donating lights for fields, concession stands and uniforms,” she said. “We sponsor kids who wouldn’t be able to play because their families couldn’t afford it.”
Clearwater for Youth goes beyond the local sports field in its help for youth in the community.
“We do college scholarships,” said Daugherty. “We have donated over $400,000 in college scholarships in the past 10 years. We provide support for 8,000 youth in Pinellas County every year.”
One person who supports the Clearwater for Youth Organization and the race is Alex Faust of Belleair.
“I think that it is for a great cause and is memorializing a great man. It acknowledges him and benefits the community. Besides, you get great exercise while you are doing it.”
Faust was in last year’s trial race and liked it and is entering again this year.
“I was in it last year when I was pregnant with my son,” she said. “This year I intend to walk the 5K with my son who is now 6 months old.”
Faust has no doubt the race will fulfill the organizers’ expectations.
“I am confident that it will be successful,” she said. “They have a great team behind the race and they have the recipe for success.”
Race participants will get to do more than just run in the race. There are events surrounding the race that make it a place where runners can bring their family and friends.
“Thursday will be a pre-race party at the Marina Cantina where participants can pick up their packets and mingle with the sponsors and dignitaries,” said Daugherty. “Then on the day of the race there will be food and drink for everybody thanks to the Original Crabby Bill’s, Chili’s and ClearSky Downtown.”
On Friday, the day before the race there will be an expo at Coachman Park from 2 to 7 p.m. There the sponsors get to show their stuff. Such things as clothing and sunglasses will be on display.
On race day, Nov. 11, the half marathon begins at 7 a.m., the 5K at 7:30 a.m. and the 1-mile at 7:45 a.m.
Daugherty stressed that the sponsors of the event are crucial to its success. The lead sponsor this year is Frenchy’s and the title sponsor is Crown Auto.
She also noted that security is a crucial part of the event with the Sheriff’s Office, Clearwater PD and Belleair PD all involved in the race.
Organizers hope the race will fulfill the Clearwater for Youth Mission statement which is to help young people in the city. The organization was founded in 1967 and incorporated in 1972. The mission statement is clear.
“It is helping our community youth reach their fullest potential through enriching and productive activities,” it reads. “Over 50 years ago our local civic leaders had this vision of building character through sports and today CFY continues to help ensure ‘no child is turned away’ or program jeopardized due to financial concerns.”
More than 1,000 runners are expected to run in the race on Saturday, Nov. 11.