A group of Roman Catholic nuns laced on sneakers under their powder blue habits, and recovering Skid Row drug addicts donned running shorts as Southland residents combined fitness with philanthropy in a series of events Saturday that brought tens of thousands of dollars to area charities.
At the third annual "Run for the Homeless" in Griffith Park, for example, Betty Wright kicked off her run by saying it was the first time she had exercised since elementary school. Previously, she said, her physical activity was limited to hurrying to the nearest dope dealer for a "rock" of cocaine--until Saturday, when she and other recovering drug addicts and alcoholics joined other runners in a benefit race for the homeless.
Wright, 25, came in second-to-last among a group of about 120 Skid Row runners who were among 1,000 racers and spectators to attend the event, which raised more than $100,000 in corporate donations.
"I'm so proud of myself because I thought about quitting or cheating by tripping somebody near me during the race," said Wright, who rewarded herself after her half-hour run by immediately lighting a menthol cigarette. "But I figured if I could do this honestly, I can do anything."
The event benefitted Chrysalis, a nonprofit Skid Row organization that helps people find jobs, and was one of several charitable and political events that typically draw Southland residents on weekends. Saturday, crowds turned out despite overcast skies and occasional drizzle.
The events included a bowl-a-thon to feed the hungry and a walkathon involving nuns from a Roman Catholic hospital in Lynwood.
About 40 nuns from St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood spent an hour early Saturday morning walking a one-kilometer course in Lynwood City Park to raise money for the hospital.
The sisters from the order Daughters of Charity made a vivid tableau striding against the gray skies in their powder blue uniforms, short veils and sneakers, said hospital spokeswoman Lilia Rodriguez. The Nun Run, as the event is called, netted about $30,000 in pledges the nuns had solicited, Rodriguez said.
In Studio City and nine other communities in Los Angeles County, hundreds of people flocked to bowling alleys to support Love Is Feeding Everyone, a nonprofit organization that distributes food every week to about 60,000 people, many of whom are homeless.
The bowlers raised more than $50,000 at the rate of at least one-cent for every point scored, with some players showing top form and others sighing in relief at the sight of anything that didn't roll into the gutter.
Some bowlers had obtained pledges from friends who agreed to pay up to $1 for each pin that was knocked down.
Lillian Dokell and Rose Botnek, two North Hollywood sisters who wore matching acid-wash jeans and bowling shirts at Sports Center Bowl in Studio City, were trying the game for the first time. After throwing several gutter balls, they said they were obviously more interested in helping feed the hungry than in the sport of bowling.
But to many of the Skid Row runners, completing the five-kilometer race was an important milestone in their recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. To Roni Apple, 32, a former cocaine user living in a Salvation Army treatment center on Skid Row, the race "showed me--amazingly enough--that I still have my health" despite years of inactivity and drug abuse.
So, how were Apple and her colleagues planning to celebrate their athletic prowess?
By cracking open a few bottles of soda, she said.