More than 400 runners participated in last years race.
More than 400 runners participated in last years race.

RIDGELAND- Pre-registration has opened for the eleventh annual SouthGroup Make•A•Difference 5K Run/Walk hosted in conjunction by SouthGroup Insurance Services and Friends of Children’s Hospital.

Tracy Gressett of SouthGroup said this year’s race is special, in that it begins a new decade for SouthGroup’s involvement with the Children’s Hospital and other charities.

This year’s event is scheduled for February 16. Gressett said the event will begin at 8:30 a.m. at the SouthGroup headquarters in The Woodlands Office Park at County Line Road and Woodlands Parkway in Ridgeland. The event will also include a one-mile fun run as well as activities for children. 

Last year, the race attracted over 400 runners and walkers, along with a host of co-sponsors from the insurance industry across the nation and local SouthGroup clients, to raise $30,000 for the Blair E Batson Children’s Hospital at The University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Gressett said

“Runners and walkers come each year from all over Mississippi and we are, again, looking for about 400 participants and hope to raise at least $25,000 for the Batson children,” Gressett said. “We would certainly like to see participants from Jackson join us in Ridgeland the morning of February 16 either competing in the race for medals or just walking or simply making a contribution to support the children’s hospital.” 

Leslie Owens director of Events and Special Projects with the Friends of the Children’s Hospital, the fundraising group of Batson’s, said that for the past decade, dedicated SouthGroup Insurance Group employees have worked to gather sponsors, raffle prizes and event items to put together the race. 

“Putting on a race is a huge job and SouthGroup does it phenomenally,” Owens said. “The race is a large fundraiser for Friends of Children’s Hospital and we couldn’t do it without the SouthGroup staff from all across the state. Their contribution of their time and financial support is what really is making a difference in our community, especially for the sick kids in Mississippi.”

More than $270,000 has been raised since 2008 and the funds are earmarked for the Child Life Fund, a program instrumental to Batson Children’s Hospital. 

According to Gressett, the Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital treats more than 150,000 children from every county in Mississippi each year for everything from cystic fibrosis and juvenile diabetes to pediatric heart disease, neurological disorders, and other childhood illnesses.  

“We are committed to helping Batson’s kids feel as comfortable as possible during their treatment process through our sponsorship of the Batson Child Life Program,” Gressett said.

The first run/walk took place in 2008. 

“It was an inspiring success and has been ever since,” Owens said. 

Pre-registration is available at www.southgroup.net. For more information, call the local SouthGroup office at (601) 914-3220.