A wet and gloomy morning did not stop dozens of racers from coming out to Main Street in downtown Riverhead for the 19th annual Run for the Ridley.
The 5-kilometer race, organized by the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, aims to raise money for the foundation to go toward its turtle rescues and care during the winter months.
“It’s an opportunity for the public to come enjoy themselves, as well as speak to our volunteers and staff and learn about endangered species and help support the program and the work that we do,” said Kimberly Durham, a marine biologist and rescue program director at the foundation.
She said their hope was to raise around $30,000, but also to raise awareness of the issue of finding sea turtles on the beaches during the winter months. The Kemp’s ridley sea turtle is one that is commonly found in the area and is also an endangered species.
Ms. Durham said a lot of times a turtle can appear dead when someone finds it washed ashore. The cold stunned turtle can often be nursed back to health at the Long Island Aquarium by raising its body temperature.
“The families who find the turtles like this are always amazed when we call them and tell them we brought it back and it’s healthy,” Ms. Durham said.
The money raised from the race goes toward different medical supplies needed to do this kind of work. She said during the winter they usually get around 40 to 50 turtles that they keep in their care until the water gets warm enough for them to go back.
What Ms. Durham said is nice about the race is the variety of people it attracts. The race begins on Main Street, then runners go through the residential neighborhood streets and finish on McDermott Avenue by the aquarium’s back entrance.
Autumn Marble, 15, of Manorville ran the race with her Husky, Ice. She said they run it every year.
“He can run another 10 miles,” she joked.
Autumn said she’s a big animal lover and that’s why she enjoys this race.
“It’s a good thing for them to do for the animals,” she said.
Devyn Fogel, 12, of Woodbury has been a frequent precipitant in the 5K. This year she did a little something different by putting a team together as part of her Bat Mitzvah project. “Team Devyn” was noticeable running through the streets with their bright blue shirts with a white turtle on the front.
“I love turtles, so I started this run when I was nine and I’ve done it ever since,” Devyn said.
Her father, Mark, added that his daughter has been following turtles since she was a little girl and he’s proud she was able to get a team together and raise money for something that is important to her.
“It’s a great event. It gets bigger each year,” he said. “People like Devyn who bring teams out here help others to learn about [the cause] every year.”
After the racers cross the finish line they gather back at the aquarium for bagels, raffles, awards and a fan-favorite: clam chowder courtesy of Jerry and the Mermaid, an event sponsor.
Ms. Durham said she happy to have so many sponsors and to have the support from the community to put the race on every year and keep the foundation doing the work it finds so valuable.
“It’s rewarding to get the opportunity to make a difference for an endangered species,” Ms. Durham said. “But also being able to share this story with the public, getting to spread the word and giving back to the environment we live in and the animals that share it.”