Thousands Participate in GE 5K Supporting Petit Family Foundation

ByKristen Johnson

Updated at 12:05 PM EDT on Sunday, Jul 19, 2015

Close to 1,500 people lined up to run and walk in the GE 5K road race supporting the Petit Family Foundation on Sunday.

Karen Patane had never raced before, but she decided a year ago she wanted to train for this race.

“I really wanted this one. This was on my bucket list to learn to run. The cause, it’s wonderful. 5K’s when you have a charity behind them, they bring something special,” said Patane.

She started training a year ago. Sunday, she finally reached her goal as she crossed the finish line. Patane doesn’t know the Petit family personally, but she knows their story.

“They’ve come through and made something wonderful out of a horrible tragedy,” said Patane.

In 2007, Doctor William Petit lost his wife, Jennifer and two daughters, Hayley and Michaela in a violent home invasion in Cheshire. The following year, the inaugural race was held and it’s been growing ever since.

“The turnout and everything they do is just so wonderful for the community,” Jan Campbell, of New Milford, said.

Race director Bob Hesline added, “It touches my heart every year to do this. It’s a personal thing.”

By the end of 2015, the Petit Family Foundation will have raised $2 million for charity, half of that coming through the 5K race over the past eight years. The rest was raised through the annual golf tournament.

“It’s really been a team effort with the community and the region reaching out to help other people,” Dr. Petit said.

He chose charities that were close to his family's heart. The first is education for women in science, because his daughter Hayley wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a doctor. Money is also donated toward MS education, which his late wife suffered from. The final piece of the foundation is money to support those affected by violence.

“Obviously this was devastating violence and violence affects many people with a ripple out to the communities, so we thought helping people affected by violence was critical,” said Dr. Petit.

Dr. Petit hopes his family's legacy will live on as he turns a personal tragedy into change.