Mandarin Oriental Hotel Helps Amidon-Bowen Build a New Library
Chris Richardson sat underneath a shaded courtyard, cracked open a cold bottle of water and slowly poured it over his head. As the water trickled down his face, he gasped for air. Richardson had just run his first 5K race since undergoing knee surgery on June 25.
He joined more than 200 runners and walkers who participated in the early-morning FANtastic March 5K fundraiser for Amidon-Bowen Elementary School. Runners lined up in front of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Southwest on Sunday, September 9.
"It's definitely a good cause," said Richardson, 47, who lives in Alexandria, Va. "I wish we had stuff like this when I was a Washingtonian going to elementary school. A lot has changed in the nearly 30 years since I left D.C."
Students, teachers, alumni and supporters trekked over to the Mandarin Oriental to support the fundraiser which raised money for a leveled library – one with books specifically organized by reading level and difficulty – for the elementary school.
No stranger to running, marathon veteran Kenny Ames cruised across the finish line just 24 minutes and 3 seconds after the race started. And while Ames has no immediate connection to Amidon-Bowen or the Mandarin Oriental, he felt compelled to run and make a donation after stumbling across the event's webpage.
"I checked out the website and I was definitely inspired to do it for the cause," said Ames, 35, who also intends to compete in the New York City Marathon later this fall. "It's very enjoyable to run, but it also means something to be able to give something back and to combine two of my passions."
While Ames used the FANtastic March 5K fundraiser to train for his upcoming race, Rosa Underwood and Chanelle Johnson made the event a family affair. The mother-daughter team walked the course together and strolled across the finish line, laughing and joking.
"It's mommy-daughter time," Johnson, 23, said, chuckling. "I think that it's great that the hotel is helping out the neighborhood and kids who are so young. It gives the kids something to look forward to and also gives them hope," the Northeast resident said.
Her mother echoed her sentiment.
"Anytime a business, or anyone gives back to the community, I think that it's a wonderful thing," said Underwood, 44, who also lives in Northeast. "These days with the economy, and the issues with funding, any little thing that helps is great."
Amidon-Bowen, located at 4th and I Streets in Southwest, recently had $5 million in renovations that included upgraded classrooms, new administrative offices and new air-conditioning units installed along with a variety of cosmetic enhancements. Mandarin Oriental Hotel officials championed the cause to raise the $30,000 needed to fund the library project.
"We actually look every year for some great opportunity to give back to the community," said Elizabeth Vita-Finzi, 51, Mandarin Oriental's resident manager. "This is our second annual FANtastic March. We were so impressed with Amidon-Bowen and the idea of raising money to buy books for a leveled learning library [it] seemed like a really awesome opportunity."
Camille Harrison recently embarked upon her first year as a reading teacher at Amidon-Bowen. Sunday's event not only afforded her the opportunity to spend time with her colleagues and students, but she walked away from the race impressed with the school's sense of community and its devotion to its students.
"For me, as a new teacher, I think it's good to have this kind of support and to see how they're trying to build up the school," said Harrison, 31, a Rockville, Md. resident. "I think that it's a great way to raise money for books for the library. It's a fantastic way for everyone to come together and it's a perfect cause."
Ward 6 Council member Tommy Wells – who served as the Grand Marshall – opened the fundraiser with remarks and kicked-off the three-mile race that ended with a barbeque on the hotel's lush back lawn.
Izabela Miller, the school's principal, said that she was overwhelmed by the amount of support her school received. She added that every child will benefit greatly from the new library.
"We really needed a solid guided reading leveled library ...," said Miller, 44, who lives in Alexandria, Va. "We are a school that is consistently scoring as one of the lowest in the District in reading and we are really focused on pushing reading. Last year our scores went up slightly. This year, the goal is to move up significantly, and we are hoping to see a huge difference."