A Positive Connection
14th annual James Island Connector Run benefit Gavalas Kolanko Foundation
By Charlie Morrison
The 14th annual James Island Connector Run went off without a hitch this past Saturday morning, with nearly 1,100 competitors walking, running, pushing, and peddling their way over the Ashley River for a good cause. The event featured 10K and 5K running competitions, a 5K walk and a bike fun ride. Proceeds from the event benefit the Gavalas Kolanko Foundation (GKF), a locally-based non-profit dedicated to assisting South Carolina students who’ve overcome physical limitations in pursuing their secondary education. Since 1999, GKF has awarded annual scholarships to students with physical disabilities to attend both College of Charleston and Charleston Southern University.
While the connection between the cause the competition and the amount of money raised is an important part of the story, this year’s run was laden with the competitive spirit along with a giving spirit. Respective men’s and ladies’ 10K champions Michael Banks and Michelle LaFleur set the morning’s fastest pace, clocking respective times of 31:39 and 37.29. North Charleston’ David Hochoby set the 5K pace with a time of 16 minutes flat, with Rives Poe of downtown taking home the women’s 5K title with a time of 18:10.
For GKF and James Island Connector Run co-founder Nick Gavalas it’s not the times set at the competition that matter, but rather the mindset of those competing. “It’s the most gratifying thing I’ve ever done in my life. If you were to talk to some of our recipients about what the impact has been for them … believe me, it’s gratifying,” says Gavalas. “You keep tapping a light for 14 years and eventually you start to make breakthroughs throughout the year.
The race is competitive, but the competition for the Gavalas Kolanko Foundation-sponsored scholarships rivals the competition of the race itself. “We’re not just looking for the student whps is physically disabled, we’re looking for student who truly want to be significant and have demonstrated that with their history of participating in various events, various functions … in other words, that their life story is a model story,” says Gavalas