Color Run Sells Out

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As the countdown hits zero, bursts of purple, pink, orange, blue -- and pretty much any other color you can think of -- fly into the air. Joyful, smiling faces fade slowly behind a cloud of multicolored dust.

And when the dust settles and the people reemerge, they're still smiling.

It's perhaps a fitting closing to an event that proudly calls itself "The Happiest 5k on Earth."

"When people are covered in color and they've just exercised, there's a chemistry there that you can't really quantify," said Seth King, Color Run's Vice President of Development. "And people tend to have a great time."

The Color Run is an untimed, non-competitive race that moves from city to city. Saturday, racers started in front of the State Capitol and ended in Adado Riverfront Park, doused by a different-colored powder at each kilometer in between.

It's meant to be a fun experience for everyone -- from age two to age 80.

"The color run is all about getting off your couch and getting into your running shoes and embracing exercise," said King. "It's all about making that first step."

"We feel like we've created an event that's fun for anyone, any fitness level, and that allows this feeling of euphoria, community," he said.

Common Ground sponsored the event. Proceeds went to the Children's Center at Sparrow Hospital and Kelleigh's Cause, which is searching for a cure for a rare birth defect.

The charity's namesake, Kelleigh Gustafson, 16, was on hand Saturday, dancing on stage and handing out packages of colored powder.

"She's always giving back," said Dr. Stephen Guertin, Director of the Sparrow Children's Center. "Fifteen-thousand people running through the streets of Lansing and Kelleigh has directed that money toward the Sparrow Children's Center and we are incredibly grateful. But I have to tell you, it's a characteristic of her. That's the way she is."

Gustafson was born with Arteriovenous malformation, or AVM, in which veins and arteries connect directly, rather than with capillaries to connect the two. The result is life-threatening and inoperable and has no cure to date.

Gustafson and her family made the trip from Syracuse, N.Y. to be at the run, never mind that she had been in a hospital bed, just a week before, unsure if she would be able to attend.

"I found out Thursday she was going to be out of the hospital and be here today," said Dr. Brad Hoopingarner, a pediatrician that worked with Gustafson. "And that just lifted my heart because they pour so much work into this and it's a family affair, it really is."

Gustafson's goal is to raise at least $150,000 for research for AVM, money that she hopes can one day allow doctors to apply for a federal grant.

Her doctors say having her back in Lansing is an inspiration for other children with illnesses and ailments. Her mother smiled as she watched her take center stage.

"It is the best feeling in the world," said Lori Gustafson. "It's with all the people she loves and doing it for the people that she really cares about. She's an inspiration to me. She keeps me going."

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