Despite the cold, rainy weather, hundreds of runners turned out for the first R-KIDS 5K and 1-mile fun run at the Madison City Schools Stadium Saturday.

Proceeds from the event, organized by Bob Jones High School senior David Gunther, will support HudsonAlpha’s pediatric genomics program. This collaborative research effort between HudsonAlpha, UAB and North Alabama Children’s Specialists seeks to identify genetic causes of developmental delay in children across the Tennesee Valley.

Gunther learned about the project last summer while interning at HudsonAlpha resident associate company Conversant Bio.

“It’s so important,” said Gunther. “I realized I needed to do something to help and thought about a race.”

Gunther sprung into action, sharing his idea with Danny Windham, a mentor and family friend. Windham, CEO of Digium and a HudsonAlpha board member, guided Gunther through the fundraising process.

“I told him it was going to take getting his friends involved,” said Windham. “It was his enthusiasm that had to fuel it. He had to get his circles involved and find out whose parents were in a position to support it.”

By following Windham’s advice, Gunther secured numerous sponsors, including Fleet Feet, Digium, Aviagen, Domino’s, Chik-fil-A, AEgis, SEO Arbiter, and Signalink.net. He also recruited dozens of his peers to help spread the word, volunteer and participate. Many showed up at the race site as early as 6:30 a.m. to help set up tents, tables and registration.

Funds raised through the event are still being tallied, but the R-KIDS 5K also raised crucial awareness of a research project that stands to improve the lives of hundreds of North Alabama children and their families.

“We can’t thank David and his parents, Jane and Jim, enough,” said Carter Wells, vice president for advancement and economic development at HudsonAlpha. “David and his peers did more than put on a great race. They are advancing research of childhood genetic disorders. In fact, everyone who participated in the R-KIDS 5K is now a part of that important effort, and we thank you.”