HUNDREDS TURN OUT FOR IRONSTONE DERBY 5K

EAGLE-TRIBUNE

Nearly 300 runners gathered Sunday beneath a clear, blue sky to raise money and awareness during the fifth annual Ironstone Derby 5K.

“Happy Father’s Day to all the dads,” said Deedee O’Brien, executive director of Ironstone Farm. “We are really happy to be here.”

The 5K helps support programs at the farm, which serve children with disabilities, people of all ages with autism, veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, those diagnosed with cancer, and teen development programs, O’Brien said.

“We really appreciate everybody turning out this year for Ironstone,” said Neil Fater, the farm’s marketing director.

Fater pointed to a farmhouse being renovated to house veterans for weekend programs.

“People coming here for retreats can stay here,” Fater said of the farmhouse. “For veterans, having an immersive experience is really powerful. We appreciate people coming out to support kids and veterans. There are lots of great fathers here.”

Father-son duo Dave and Luke McGillivray, 12, attended the 5K together. Dave McGillivray helped found the race.

McGillivray said he was friends with people at Ironstone and wanted to help the farm create a signature event. The race helps spread awareness of the work the farm does, he said.

“I think awareness of their goodness is really what it is all about,” McGillivray said. “If we can get people aware and interested, either donating or volunteering. This is a good magnet and it’s fun.”

Luke McGillivray came in first place in the youth division. He described the race in one word: “Awesome.”

“He’s been running a lot of road races,” his father said. “He has some gifted talent. It’s exciting to see how well he’s done in these races.”

About 40 members of the Merrimack Valley Striders also ran the 5K.

“This is a great event,” said Tom Licciardello, a founder of the group. “Our club is very close with Ironstone. We love their support and they are one of the big beneficiaries for our big race — the Feaster Five. They support good health, especially for kids, which really follows our mission as well.”

Theresa Weis, 19, of Andover, volunteered to help run the 5K.

Sixteen years ago, Weis started as an independent rider at the farm but became interested in the therapeutic work at Ironstone. She accumulated more than 2,000 hours of volunteer service at the farm by the time she graduated from high school. Today, Weis attends Brandeis University and volunteers at Ironstone over the summer.

“It gave me a great opportunity to work with people who may not see the world as I do,” Weis said. “I love being here. It’s a great experience for everyone. It’s a very open-minded place.”

Alex Kramer, 26, a former North Andover resident who now lives in Cambridge, won the race. Kramer’s father told him about the 5K while visiting his family for the weekend.

“It’s great — a beautiful morning,” Kramer said. “It’s a great place. It’s cool to get people out to see the farm and something like this.”

Andover Selectman Annie Gilbert partook in the race as well.

“This program is just one of Andover’s gems,” Gilbert said. “It has touched so many lives through so many years. I’m just delighted to support it today.”

After the race, the farm offered a cookout, several games, and a drill performance with riders and horses.