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Smith family honored for Flamingo 5K

Every October, for the past decade, a touch of bright pink has graced the landscape just south of Belhaven. On the second Saturday of that month, hundreds of runners gather on the shores of the Pungo for Darleen’s Flamingo 5K, a fundraising footrace that supports the efforts of the Shepard Cancer Foundation.

At the heart of the event, Nikki Smith Klapp and the extended family of her mother, Darleen Smith, have created a community tradition that helps provide treatment and therapies for local people battling cancer. It was for these efforts that the members of the Smith family were recognized as the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 Citizens of the Year.

The annual race honors the memory of Darleen Smith, a long-time school teacher and librarian who was well-loved in the Belhaven community. After a five-year battle with breast cancer, Smith passed away in 2010 at the age of 59. The event’s signature symbol, a flamingo, commemorates her love for the colorful birds and her zest for life.

“We wanted to honor her in a way, but also to bring attention and show our support to others going through issues with cancer,” Klapp said. “So we came up with the 5K, and that’s why we support the cancer center here in Washington. We wanted all the money we raise to stay local in the community.”

And stay local it has. Since 2010, the event has raised more than $150,000 to support local people in their battles. Since its origins, the race has grown from a handful of people to a major annual event drawing hundreds of participants. With more than 50 local volunteers and donations coming from Belhaven businesses, the Flamingo 5K is truly a community event.

“We’re just amazed how it has really brought everybody together,” Klapp said.

Registration for this year’s Flamingo 5K, the 10th installment of the race, opens March 27, with the race date set for Oct. 12. To sign up, visit www.runsignup.com/Race/NC/Belhaven/DarleensFlamingo5K.