Red Cross Youth Run raises disaster awareness

While most of Santa Monica was slumbering away, actor Josh Duhamel, the Red Cross and Ford Motor Company hosted the third annual Red Cross Youth Run on Sunday. Duhamel, a Red Cross spokesman, is no stranger to participating in charity runs. The “Transformers” actor has led two previous runs for relief efforts after the Haitian and Japanese earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

Where the previous events were centered on specific causes, the 2012 Youth Run was centered around disaster prevention.

All proceeds went to Prepare SoCal, a campaign led by the Red Cross to improve southern California residents’ ability to handle crises such as wildfires and earthquakes. However, participants could also choose to put their entry fee toward the Superstorm Sandy effort.

Over a hundred runners of various ages and experience levels came out to lend their support. A minimum fee of $10 was necessary to participate in the two-mile run along the Santa Monica beach.

Approximately $45,000 was raised at this year’s Red Cross Youth Run.

This was Ford’s first year as a sponsor for the Youth Run, and the automotive company did not disappoint. Ford donated $25,000 to the Red Cross as well as a Transit Connect van.

“That vehicle will be used to help educate elementary school kids about safety,” said James Vella, president of Ford Community Services.

“A lot of people think it will never happen to them, and then something like Hurricane Sandy happens,” said Vella. “Our partnership is to make sure people are prepared.”

Prepare SoCal had booths stationed around the event where participants could play safety-related games with a chance to win an emergency flashlight and backpack.

Volunteers handed out the Emergency Preparedness Guide, which highlights crucial survival tips for natural disasters. For example, according to the guide, it is a myth that standing under a doorway will protect you from harm during an earthquake.

“It’s important that we, as a society, prepare for something like this,” said event volunteer and Santa Monica College student Jorunn Langseth.

“I wanted to volunteer to have some work experience,” Langseth said. “The Red Cross has so many areas you can get involved with. They’re there for the small local stuff, not just the big disasters.”

Julie Thomas, CEO of the Santa Monica Red Cross chapter, was at the event educating participants about the importance of preparing, not just for individual residents, but for entire neighborhoods.

“We have 90 people deployed to Sandy,” said Thomas. “They’re bringing back information on how to better prepare.”

“A lot of relief comes from the community,” she said. “That’s what this is all about. Prepare SoCal is the first step.”

“I’m so proud to be a part of this,” Duhamel said to participants. “We’re getting people to be aware and have a plan with their family. The more prepared you are the better off you are.”

“Everyone finished the race, and we didn’t even need the first aid people,” Duhamel said.