Record turn out for 10th Annual IRIS Run for Refugees 5K in New Haven

(WTNH/ Stephanie Simoni)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)- The 10th annual refugee run was sold out in New Haven Sunday, reaching a new milestone.

Runners watched and listened before they hit the streets of New Haven, hoping each step makes it easier for refugees when they arrive to the state.

“I moved to America in 2006 and I happened to get this number 2006,” said Simnka Woudamki, Cheshire.

He moved from Camaroon 10 years ago and brought his family to New Haven’s 10th annual Refugee Run.

“Our first year 300 people came out. This year we have 2,500 runners,” said Chris George, Exec. Director of IRIS, which stands for Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Service.

Organizers say they have never seen participation like this, setting records for this winter 5K.

Related: Run for Refugees gains ground after President Trump’s Executive Order

“There is so much support for refugee resettlement.  People just want to come out here, make a statement, walk, run march whatever. Show their support for refugees,” said George.

George believes the current political climate motivated folks to sign up and donate. He says they do much more than just relocate people escaping war-torn countries.

“We enroll the kids in school over the following days, we connect them to healthcare, we help them learn English. We help them find jobs. We have legal service to help families who have been separated by war,” said George.

The Levin Family says this was their first time even hearing about the run and wanted to show support.

“I think people are looking around for more things like this now,” said Shawn Levin, Fairfield.

“I want to support the refugees and I want to stand for what’s right,” said Woudamki.

A March for Refugees followed the race at noon with people marching from Wilbur Cross High School to the New Haven Green.  Speakers included resettled refugees, Mayor Toni Harp of New Haven, and Chris George.

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