Runners Flock to Annual GE 5K Petit Family Foundation Road Race

By Kristen Johnson

Wallingford native Lisa Oefinger ran in the inaugural GE 5K Petit Family Foundation Road Race nine years ago. After moving to San Francisco, Sunday was her first time back to race in this event.

“It looks like it’s already so bigger than it’s been and I can see the energy, and the energy feels the same but it looks like it’s grown a whole bunch,” Oefinger said.

In fact, the race has now raised more than a million-dollars for charities championed by the Petit Family in honor of Jennifer, Hayley, and Michaela Petit, who were killed in a violent home invasion in Cheshire in 2007. Dr. William Petit Jr. lived through the attack and established the Petit Family Foundation in his family's memory.

“I’ve heard Dr. Petit say many times that there is good in people and a lot of good people come out and support this event,” said Race Director Bob Heslin, who added that the event has grown from a local road race to one that has attracted runners from 48 states.

“Every year we hear about it on the radio, on the news, and it’s a nice thing to do,” said Sharon Hernandez, a first time participant.

The Meriden woman decided the GE 5K was the perfect place for her to kick-off her new exercise routine.

Organizers said more than a thousand people registered for the run and walk. Many said the mission was more important than finishing first.”

“It doesn’t matter what you run. Some people are going to run fast other people not so much but in the end we’re all here together,” explained Oefinger’s cousin Pat Biancur of Wallingford.

Organizers said that’s the goal. The foundation's favorite phrase is: Be the Change.

“It allows all the runners number one to do something good for themselves, in terms of running and exercising and feeling good, be part of the Petit Foundation and help raise the money to help others, so they are part of the change,” explained Dr. Petit.

Nine years after his wife and daughters were tragically taken, Petit is grateful the community continues to care.

“It’s a wonderful thing. Very emotional,” Petit said.

“I can be part of this much bigger thing. Something that’s much bigger than me and be someone who’s helping give back to the community,” Oefinger said.

“It was extremely sad what happened and it’s great that the Petit family has stepped up to help everybody in the community and whatever support they can give and people supporting them,” said Bobby Ericksen of Meriden.