Runners from across Texoma came together Saturday to support the United Way of Grayson County as the charitable organization held its annual Hustle for Health fundraiser. The event, which brought out more than 500 runners from as far as Colorado and Illinois, featured 5K, 10K, and fun run races as a part of the organization’s focus on health.


The event, now in its 8th year, traditionally served as the kick off event for the organization’s fundraising season. However, due to the popularity of the event, organizers said the official kick off event has been pushed back so that the race does not overshadow the campaign start.


“The great thing about this event is that you don’t have to be in optimal shape to do it,” United Way of Grayson County CEO David Cortinas said. “You really just have to want to do it.”


Before the first Hustle for Health, Cortinas said the United Way would host lunches with area businesses as one of its primary fundraisers. However, the event was changed as the organization focused more on health activities that could appeal to all.


“It did not touch the whole family or community like Hustle for Health does,” he said.


Among the runners participating in the race Saturday was 80-year-old Dick Fislar from Rock Island, Illinois. Fislar, who celebrated his birthday Friday, was in Allen to see his family and wanted to find a race that was for a good cause. In his nearly 60 years of running, Fislar has raced more than 650 events, including 52 in one year.


“Running keeps yourself fit and happy,” he said. “It is just a proven fact that you have a better quality of life later in life.”


This upcoming fundraising season represents the 75th anniversary for United Way in Grayson County. For its upcoming campaign, Cortinas said the United Way would try to raise $1.3 million with the theme of the “Power of U.”


“It is the power of people to come together in support as a community,” he said.


Previously, the United Way has raised money in support of 17 area nonprofits and charitable organizations. Through these organizations, the United Way has supported individual programs, often with a focus on youth and youth-related causes.


Among those organizations is the Salvation Army of Grayson County. Maj. Tex Ellis, who leads the local chapter, helped out during Saturday’s race by handing out water to runners as they finished. Ellis joked that he has considered participating in the past, but he doesn’t consider himself a runner.


“I am more a biker myself,” he said. “But we’ve had some of our members running this year.”


Ellis said the United Way has financially supported the Salvation Army’s emergency shelter and its emergency assistance program.


“The emergency assistance program helps us assist with utilities and rent for individuals in need,” he said.


Cortinas said the United Way will officially kickoff on Sept. 7 with a day of caring. Through this event, partner employers will allow their employees to volunteer with area agencies on projects and tasks the organizations likely would not be able to do otherwise.