It’s 7 a.m. Saturday, already hot, when 100 or more people or more gathered near the starting line for the PB&J Project 5k in Harker Heights Community Park.

Kim Mansell, the founder of the GetFit Program and a race sponsor, held up a starting pistol and sent the runners off with a bang. The runners jogged out of the park en masse, following the outlined route.

The PB&J Project is a nonprofit that provides backpacks of food to underprivileged children.

The project currently works with Peebles Elementary School, but Mansell hopes to expand to other schools using the 5k profits. Mansell said 116 racers registered to run Saturday.

The first finisher, Mansell’s son Peyton Mansell, crossed the finish line about 21 minutes after his mother fired the starting pistol.

He won a trophy and bragging rights for coming in first, he said.

“I’m just glad we could come out and support the PB&J Project,” he said, wiping sweat from his brow.

The first-place female finisher was 2nd Lt. Christina Sutton.

“I run a lot of 5Ks, but this is the first time I’ve been a first place finisher,” she said.

Sutton tries to run a 5k every month, and she decided to run the PB&J 5k rather than other races in Austin and San Antonio.

“I think it’s great,” she said of PB&J’s mission.

An hour after the 5k started, a mile-long kids Fun Run looped around the park. The kids trotted over the same finish line as the adults, all smiles and cheers.

Event sponsors included Christian Life Church, Corrective Chiropractic and Simply Clean Meals. Some of the sponsors provided the racers information and services.

Simply Clean Meals, run by Jessica Gilliland, gave snacks and water to the runners and bystanders. SCM is a service where Gilliland cooks fresh, healthy meals and delivers them to those who don’t want to eat fast food but don’t have time to make their own meals.

“All proceeds today go to the PB&J Project,” Gilliland said.

She also donated healthy food to the project.

Runners Amy Foster and Alesia Karcher, who work for the Killeen Independent School District, expressed a personal interest in the mission of the PB&J Project.

“We’re hoping for expansion, because lots of kids need extra assistance,” said Foster, a special education coordinator.

Karcher was contemplative about the project.

“It’s overwhelming to think that there are kids who will go home on the weekend and be hungry,” she said.

Herald/Rachel Kaser

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