The inaugural Round the Mound 5K walk/run was designed as a tool to promote health and wellness.For the organizing force behind the Round the Mound 5k, the event reflected “a new perspective and outlook.” (Photo: Lee R. Watkins)

by Lee R. Watkins, Special to The New Tri-State Defender

Eager runners and walkers – about 200 strong – crowded the streets of Orange Mound to participate in an historic event last Saturday.

Juice Orange Mound partnered with The Mid-South Gastroenterology Group to host the Round the Mound 5K walk/run. It reportedly was the first ever 5K held within the Orange Mound community boundaries.

The race started and finished at the corner of Deadrick and Pendleton Street. Britney Thornton, 28, founder of Juice Orange Mound and a native of the Orange Mound community, said the 5K addressed multiple issues on several fronts.

“The 5K gave us an opportunity to address some of the health and wellness gaps,” Thornton said. “We need that as a tool to promote health and wellness in the community. It helps legitimize us as a community, because other legitimized communities have them. We want to show that we have the capacity to be as competitive or comparable as other communities.”

Juice Orange Mound is a non-profit organization. Quarterly, Juice goes door-to-door collecting spare change from residents to help pay for an innovative project idea created by members of the community. In May, Juice collected $600 to help purchase uniforms for Dunbar Elementary School, Aspire Hanley Elementary School and Melrose High School. The annual goal for Juice Orange Mound is $12,000 to help fund the quarterly projects.

The inaugural Round the Mound: 5Kwalk/run raised $5,092. The walk/run participants included Project Fresh, a non-profit organization that encourages healthy eating habits.

“It gives everybody hope that we are headed in the right direction in terms of revitalization and mobilizing our people,” said Jade Clark, Project Fresh’s founding executive director and captain of the 20-member Project Fresh.

Community leader and long-time resident of Orange Mound, Angela Barksdale, praised the work of Thornton and other millennials.

“This is a start and beginning of something great, it’s a new perspective and outlook,” Barksdale said. “I’m proud of Britney and everything she’s doing to make Orange Mound great. We have millennials now that are in control… The old folks were running from something; now we are running for something.”

State Rep. and Melrose High School alum, G.A. Hardaway Sr., said the key to public safety is to educate the youth and give them opportunities to thrive.

“Opportunities to do something other than criminal activities is the key,” Hardaway said. “Economics and education are critical. This community is defined and anchored by Melrose High School. The children that come out of Melrose High School are the same children that will populate Orange Mound. We have to give our children a better understanding of what a community consists of; you can’t have family values without a family.”

Juiced about future business prospects that Orange Mound has to offer, Thornton sees Orange Mound on the cusp of doing something special.

“We are in that last window of ever being able to do something unique in Orange Mound; (something) that is unique and different before it looks like every other community,” Thornton said.

“People with money are starting to look at Orange Mound as an attraction. I think Orange Mound can be a really unique community with black people … able to have a real ownership of the space.”