Ripley Race raises $87K

By Alexandria Hill | The Capital | | November 7, 2011

Annapolis, MD — Backed by the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, nearly 1,000 people from 35 states – including hundreds of midshipmen, veterans and even a few dogs – lined up at 9 a.m. yesterday for the third annual Ripley Race through downtown Annapolis.

TSF Photo at Col Ripley race 2011
Team Semper Fi members Tres Smith and Justin Gaertner, both USMC, finish the race with the rest of the team. (Photo by Paul Gillespie-The Capital)

The event raised $87,583 for the Semper Fi Fund, a charity that donates money to wounded and critically ill members of the military and their families for recovery and rehabilitation.

Annapolis natives and Naval Academy graduates Adam Borcz and Jon Brianas established the Ripley Race in 2009. The Navy lacrosse team alumni founded Turning Point Sports the same year. Their goal: to encourage families to exercise together and live a healthy lifestyle.

They approached U.S. Marine Col. John Ripley’s son Tom in the summer of 2009 with the idea of a 5K race fundraiser in honor of the elder Ripley. “If you went to the Naval Academy, you know who Col. Ripley is,” Borcz said.

The colonel died in October 2008. He earned numerous medals and honors for his service, particularly in combat in Vietnam.

“We were thrilled and excited to” give permisssion, Tom Ripley said.

“Adam and Jon got it started, and in just three years we’ve raised more than $100,000 for wounded Marines and their families.”

About 300 people participated the first year and raised $7,600. By 2010, the event had 600 participants and raised $11,000.

This year’s event marked a huge increase.

Part of that money came from a donation made by a friend of Tom Ripley: a 1970 Dodge Coronet Super Bee put up for auction, with 100 percent of the proceeds benefitting the Semper Fi Fund. The car is on Ebay, and bidding will remain open through the end of the week.

“My dad loved spending time with Marines,” Tom Ripley said. “He loved to talk to them – the camaraderie, just to have a beer with them, talk and share stories.”

The racers included five members of Team Semper Fi, all injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

One, Jose Ramos ran the course with his dog, Striker. Ramos, a Texas native currently living locally, lost part of his arm on a tour of duty. “For a lot of us, it’s a way to bring awareness that there are guys out there, both in hospitals and the field,” Ramos said.

First-place men’s division and overall winner Brant Alexander of Chicago finished with a time of 15 minutes and 29 seconds. Alexander, who runs for the Chicago Fleet Feet Nike team, was in town for a wedding and found out about the event online.

Part of his prize for first place overall was a framed photograph, originally published in Life magazine, showing Col. Ripley loading wounded troops into a helicopter in Vietnam.

Brianna Stewart, 16, a student at St. Mary’s High School, took first place in the women’s division for the second year in a row, with a time of 20 minutes, 39 seconds.

“My gym teacher suggested the whole class sign up for the race, so I did,” she said. A member of the school’s cross-country team, Stewart likes the race because “you get to run down Main Street. It’s so much fun.”

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