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Caitlyn's Challenge off to a running start

Taking the challenge: On a hillish and humid course winding through the Honey Creek neighborhood, well over 300 runners, walkers and canines got their race on at the first ever Caitlyn's Challenge 5K and 1 Mile Fun Run on June 4.

Friends, neighbors, classmates and colleagues came together on short notice (organized in eight short weeks) to show their love and support for Rockdale Magnet School junior Caitlyn VanHeest, who's been battling a debilitating autoimmune condition, Sjogren's Syndrome, since January. "To see this amazing event taking place and to realize it was all happening because some truly awesome, kindhearted and hardworking folks wanted to do something for Caitlyn and our family was really too much to process," said Honey Creek Elementary's Jane VanHeest, "What we saw today was ‘small town' America at its finest."

Though unable to run the race, Caitlyn drove along the course in a golf cart offering thanks and encouragement to participants. Her beloved pooch, Moo, whose likeness was emblazoned on the race T-shirts, ran the race alongside her father Scott. Besides alleviating a bit of the VanHeests' medical expenses, a portion of race proceeds will go to Sjogren's Syndrome research. For more information, visit