We Tip Our Hat to the Rye Derby

The Rye YMCA continues its centennial celebration with the 26th running of the Rye Derby, along with Healthy Kids Day, on Sunday, April 27.

Published April 18, 2014 5:00 AM
3 min read


derby-thmbThe Rye YMCA continues its centennial celebration with the 26th running of the Rye Derby, along with Healthy Kids Day, on Sunday, April 27.


derbyThe Rye YMCA continues its centennial celebration with the 26th running of the Rye Derby, along with Healthy Kids Day, on Sunday, April 27.

Runners can choose between a 5K and a 5-mile race alongside world-class athletes. Families can introduce their children to running with the 1-mile fun run and enjoy a festive morning focusing on healthy activities.   

Any newcomer to Rye will soon notice the proliferation of the cherished Rye Derby T-shirts attesting to this local tradition. How did this iconic event get its start?

Terry Birdsong was serving on the Rye Y’s Board of Directors in the 1980s. It was a difficult financial time, with waning interest in membership coupled with a series of unexpected emergency repairs. The board was forced to consider all options, even the possible closing of the YMCA. At one brainstorming session, Terry had the idea of a road race as a fund-raiser. Then she remembered her neighbor, who Eamonn Coghlan — a world-class runner, a former Olympian — who ran by her house every day. He agreed to participate and his Irish roots gave Terry the name for the race, Rye Derby.

Now the entire board was enthused and pitching in. Paul Fendler helped map the course, and every board member rolled up his or her sleeves to aid in the effort. “It really was the start of a new vitality and financial health for the Y,” recalled Birdsong. “Key ingredients to our success were Eamonn’s involvement and the dedicated board members.” The group included Kit Hennison, Mack Cunningham, Peter Donovan, Joe Carlucci, Peter Donahue, and Nancy Haneman.

Haneman, who quickly came on board to help, remembers those early days when local families were discovering this special event and the YMCA. “The camaraderie among the small group of very dedicated volunteers was exceptional. It was more of a friend-raiser than a fund-raiser.” As a result, awareness and participation of the YMCA’s family programs dramatically increased.

Local businesses were also made more aware of the Rye Y’s community activities. And like the volunteers and participants, they have remained very loyal. “We have long-standing sponsors who continue to amaze us with their support,” noted Sally Wright, Rye Y Development Director.

Families pulling together for the event gain a great sense of accomplishment. Current co-Chair Susan Gervais recalls a wonderful memory. When her son was only 8, he made a last-minute request to run the 5K for the first time. With no preparation and her organizing duties calling, Gervais reluctantly agreed that he could run with a friend. She soon found her nerves relieved. Not only was he safe but he finished with a smile and a personal triumph!

The 5K and 5-mile races start at 10:15 am; the 1-mile family fun run/walk starts at 12:15 p.m. Medals are given to championship race winners in their age groups and there is a cash purse for the top 1st-, 2nd- and 3rd-place winners in the 5-mile race. Starting at 10:30 a.m., runners and families are invited to gather at the Rye Y for free activities including active games, a jumping castle, live music, and BBQ.

Participants are encouraged to register for the races in advance at www.ryeymca.org, or at the Rye Y’s Member Services Desk. The first 600 registered participants receive a Derby T-shirt. Proceeds contribute to teen programming, financial aid for families, and community outreach.



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