A crowd of several hundred can attest to that as it gears up for the third annual Andee’s Army 5K Run/Fun Walk, set for Saturday at 8:30 a.m. at Riverwood International Charter School in Sandy Springs.
“It started out as just a fun way to raise money. Now it has really turned into an athletic event … that’s so Olympic-like,” said co-chair Suzanne Simkin. “Now our participants come in [with the mindset] of ‘I’m doing something for myself and for the cause.’” Organizers are expecting about 800 people to turn out Saturday. Proceeds will directly support children receiving medical treatment for non-traumatic brain injuries and their families.
The race and its host entity, Andee’s Army Inc., were established in 2011 by Poulos’ expansive familial circle after the Sandy Springs teenager was stricken by arteriovenous malformation, a rare medical condition characterized by potentially debilitating lesions on the brain and/or spinal chord.
Simkin, as a member of that universe, has been involved since day one. “When Andee had her incident, we all rallied around her and the whole Poulos family,” Simkin said. “It’s been an unbelievable experience. Andee is such a great story — we want every family to have that kind of support.”
Poulos herself will be on hand Saturday. Joining her as honorary co-director of the race is another local poster child for brain injuries in 11-year-old Will Penn of Sandy Springs. His foundation — Friends of Will Penn — provides technology to children who have suffered that fate.
The evolution of Andee’s Run/Walk has paralleled its namesake’s own progress health-wise.
“Year one she showed up, but her condition was not [really favorable],” Simkin said. “Year two we saw a big difference; in year three it’s been just unbelievable.”
“For a teenage girl to be able to own it and represent the foundation says so much about her character and really motivates all of us.”
This year’s event will begin and end on Raider Drive, following a two-year run at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School in Sandy Springs Organizers said they hope the course change will prove just as popular with participants hailing from both the Holy Innocents’ and Riverwood communities.
“The course change reflects the positive partnerships between our private and public school communities in Sandy Springs,” said Lisa Kennedy, board chairwoman of Andee’s Army.
IF YOU GO:
o What: Andee's Army 5K Run/Fun Walk
o Where: Riverwood International Charter School
o When: Saturday at 8:30 a.m. (day-of-race registration at 7 a.m.)
o Tickets: Early registration is $15 for students/children; $25 for adults
o Information: www.andeesarmy.com