Upcoming Rye Derby has Rich History

1st Derby - 1988

1st Derby – 1988

RYE, NY (April 14, 2014)  The 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 or a 5 mile race alongside world class athletes. Families can introduce their children to running with the one 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.  But it was not that long ago that the Derby was just an idea for its founder, Terry Birdsong. How did this iconic event get its start?

Doug Mello, Terry Birdsong, Ernie Anastos and Eamonn Coghlan at 1st Derby

Doug Mello, Terry Birdsong, Ernie Anastos and Eamonn Coghlan at 1st Derby

Terry Birdsong was serving on the Rye YMCA’s Board of Directors during 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 brain-storming session, Terry had the idea of a road race as a fund-raiser. Then she remembered her neighbor who ran past her house every day. Eamonn Coghlan was a world-class runner; a former Olympian! Eamonn agreed to participate and his Irish roots gave Terry the name “Rye Derby”. Now the entire board was enthused and pitching in. Paul Fendler helped map the course, and every board member rolled up their sleeves to aid the effort. “It really was the start of a new vitality and financial health for the Y.” recalled Terry. “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.

Nancy 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 YMCA’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.” commented Sally Wright, Rye YMCA Development Director.

Families pulling together for the event gain a great sense of accomplishment.  Current co-chair, Susan Gervais, recalls a wonderful memory for her family. When her son was only eight years old, 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 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 pm. 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 am, runners and families are invited to gather at the Rye Y for free activities including active games, jumping castle, live music and a BBQ.

Participants are encouraged to register for the races in advance at www.ryeymca.org, or at the Rye Y’s Member Services Desk. Online registration is available for both races and the family fun run. The first 600 registered participants receive a Derby t-shirt. The fee for the 5 mile and 5K race is $25 or $30 the day of the race. The fun run/walk fee is $20.  Open registration and bib pickup begins at 8 am on the race day. Proceeds contribute to teen programming, financial aid for families and community outreach. For more information, contact Margaret Mead at the Rye YMCA at 914-967-6363, ext. 403.