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Nighttime charity 5K hopes for 2021 return after coronavirus cancellation

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RALEIGH — Last week’s Catching Fireflies 5K — what would have been the ninth of the annual nighttime runs held at Wakefield High School — was canceled, like so much else, on account of COVID-19, event organizers said.

As many as 116 runners had signed up for the May 15 race before it was called off.

“Every race that we have has to be approved by the city, so once the governor’s orders came out we were not given the permit to have the event — and so we had no choice,” said Brent Dorenkamp, co-owner of FS Series and one of the run’s organizers.

The event, hosted by FS Series, has in the past attracted around 500-700 runners. The nighttime run along a route flanked by luminaries benefits Cancer Shucks, a foundation which provides services for Wake Forest locals undergoing cancer treatment.

Set up by Kevin and Amy Marksberry of Shuckers Oyster Bar and Grill, the Cancer Shucks Foundation first partnered with the Catching Fireflies 5K in 2017, and has since remained the run’s main beneficiary.

“I think last year we gave them between $5,000-$6,000,” said Dorenkamp. “Again, it just kind of depends on the turnout. We had a really good year last year, we had a really high number and it was a great event.”

While FS Series did receive numerous requests to hold a virtual version of the race, the company declined to do so — with Dorenkamp citing the fact that the cost of shipping out the medals and t-shirts to all participants would leave nothing to donate to Cancer Shucks.

“This is a hard time for people, you know, and we’re just trying to navigate the best we can. Out of all the events we own, there’s only one event we’re trying to do a virtual version of it. And even it with its costs isn’t doing well,” said Dorenkamp.

Still, Dorenkamp plans for the Catching Fireflies 5K to return next year, and is working with the city of Raleigh to have the race approved — albeit altered by post-coronavirus guidelines.

“We do think it's one of the coolest events around, and we are hoping that we’re gonna be able to get it back up and running and be able to donate significantly,” Dorenkamp said.