Locals with disabilities helped play music and walk the Centennial Trail around Legion Park as part of the annual Friendship Walk and 5K run in downtown Arlington.

The nonprofit organization Village Community Services, which supports adults with disabilities, puts on the event to raise awareness and as a fundraiser for their music program, Voices of the Village.

“We put this on to raise awareness that there are people with disabilities and they’re valuable members of our community that make contributions,” said Michelle Dietz, executive director of Village Community Services.

“Voices of the Village is one example. They play all around the state, mainly in the I-5 corridor at festivals, fundraisers and other events, and they bring a lot of joy to the events they play at,” she said.

The band is run by Village Community Services and includes many local adults with disabilities.

Many of the runners and walkers came out to the event to support the program.

Local Joan Flescher said she has participated in the event for many years to support her son, Jeremy Carter.

“We came out for Jeremy because he really enjoys the music program,” she said.

“It’s a great community event because it gets people out here in the community and it supports the music program, which is really great because the people in the village really enjoy it,” she said.

Local Dan Houston said he ran the 5K this year because he “wanted to support people with disabilities in the community.”

Houston is a case manager for Developmental Disabilities Administration, part of the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services.

“We have clients that participate in Voices of the Village,” he said. “It’s a great program. It’s amazing that they are able to provide a professional quality band basically, so that’s a great opportunity."

Dietz said that this was a pretty successful year for the Friendship Walk as they had a lot more people turn out than usual.

Part of that, she said, was making the 5K run a big part of the event.

“The last year two years have been test years for running a 5K,” she said.

This year the 5K run was professionally timed making it an official 5K and the organization had more marketing across social media, said Dietz.

“That really helped increase interest in the event,” she said. “It was exciting to see the race community’s interest in this."

Dietz said they will continue with the professionally timed 5K race next year, as it helped bring more people in to raise awareness and many enjoyed the physical activity.

“The runners all talked about the cause, so that’s important to them,” said Dietz. “People love running or love the physical activity of walking the 5K."

More information about Voices of the Village and Village Community Services is available at their website at villagecommunitysvcs.org.

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