Controversy looms over canceled charity 5K
Posted July 21, 2011
Cary, N.C. — A course of tough obstacles – it's what people who ran the Gladiator 5K race in Cary last May wanted.
"I was expecting it to be a fun, challenging race," said Ramesh Isaac.
Based on the event advertisements, they would get it. It’s the main reason Isaac and nearly 800 other people paid between $50 and $85 to take part. There was also supposed to be a "mini" gladiator race for kids for $15 each.
An added bonus for both events: Proceeds would go to Special Olympics of North Carolina.
"It's a little bit more of a draw to be helping a charity. It gives you a good feeling," said Issac.
But many say the event didn't deliver on any front.
First, the 5K, Issac said, was "a step up from what a school fair might put on."
As for the kid race that Isaac's two sons planned to run on May 18 – three days before the event was scheduled to take place, organizer Wayne Street canceled it. He sent an email saying he would send out refunds the following week.
He never did.
"If you take money from someone for something and deliver absolutely nothing, you should return it," said Issac.
And he is just one of dozens of runners who complained to 5 On Your Side.
"It was just so misleading compared to what our expectations were based on the advertising," Desiree Adkins told 5 On Your Side.
Adkins is one of many participants who asked Street for partial refunds. Street sent an email refusing the request. He blamed "unforeseen circumstances."
Perhaps worse, say many of the runners, is how he didn't deliver to Special Olympics.
The organization's president, Keith Fishburne says, "I'm disappointed in him."
Fishburne says Street approached him about a partnership where Special Olympics would promote the event on its website, and Street would donate the proceeds.
"We thought if he put on a nice event and contributed some money to Special Olympics, that would be a great for our mission," added Fishburne.
But Special Olympics didn't get a dime.
After Street didn't return our phone calls last month, we went to his Cary home. Street answered the door and told us, "No comment."
When we asked him what happened to the money, he said, "We're working on that."
Street then called Fishburne and scheduled a meeting, but days later, canceled.
"I'm calling him three or four times a week. Right now, recently, I'm calling him daily," said Fishburne. So, we went to see Street again. This time, he didn't answer.
Runners aren't getting answers either. But some did get a dog-tag-like medal in the mail to remember it all.
As small as it is, it's still more than what Special Olympics got.
"It's not fair to the charity. It's not fair to any person, company or organization to latch onto a charity's name or logo and use that from a promotional point of view," said Fishburne. "In some sense he did that by putting our logo on his materials. He needs to make it right."
After our second visit to Kenneth Street's home and a phone call that he did not return, Street delivered a check for $712 to Special Olympics.
Street says that's what he collected from racers who made a separate donation to the charity, beyond their entry fees. The organization is also supposed to get proceeds from the race. Kenneth Street has not told us anything about that.