NORTH SMITHFIELD – In 2022, when Calla Puccetti resurrected the then-defunct Northmen 5K as part of her senior project at North Smithfield High School, she used the community event as a way to raise funds for Operation Stand Down, an organization that helps homeless veterans.
When Class of 2023 senior Cole Vowels took over the following year, he chose instead to direct the funds to the organization that first started the race more than a decade earlier as a way to help support school sports programs: the North Smithfield Athletic Association.
And as the popular event returns once again this spring, two ambitious NSHS seniors hope to increase participation in order to benefit both school athletics and the families of those who died in service, plus a third charitable organization: The Hotel for Homeless Dogs.
Nicholas Carufel and Eden Beauregard are working together to host the 2024 Northmen 5K, a 3.1 mile race along Providence Pike and the area surrounding the high school. The event will be held on Saturday, May 4, starting and ending by Veterans Memorial Stadium, with a 9 a.m. start time.
“We’re trying to broaden it a little bit,” Carufel told NRI NOW of the race this week.
The collaborating NSHS seniors note they have both been runners since the sixth grade, and that they hope to carry on the community tradition revived by Puccetti and then Vowels, who they describe as, “close friends.” The pair will have help from both of the past two organizers, who now attend Bryant College.
Beauregard, an athlete who has participated in cross country, indoor track and softball, notes she grew up around races as her father, Town Councilor John Beauregard, ran in marathons.
“It’s just something that has always been there for me,” she said of running.
In 2022, Carufel, who plays basketball and golf, came in 55th out of 227 participants. Beauregard helped to kick off the event by singing the National Anthem in 2023.
“It’s something that has been very prominent in our town,” Carufel said. “Everyone always goes to the 5K. It’s something I look forward to.”
The race itself is just one element of the senior project, a graduation requirement at NSHS, which also includes a research paper and a presentation. The seniors admit that there was a brief moment of concern over who would take the reins this year before they learned they were allowed to collaborate.
“I feel like there was a second where we were going to fight for it,” said Beauregard. She added that now, “It’s nice to have someone to work with, and someone to learn from.”
“We do work with Calla a lot,” Beauregard said, noting that the NSHS graduate has been guiding and helping the process. “It’s nice that we’re friends with both of them because they’re always right there to help.”
They also have help from their project mentors, with Carufel working with Chris Puccetti, Calla’s dad, who he notes is also his father’s best friend; and Beauregard bringing in the man who served as Calla’s mentor, middle school phys ed teacher and former Northmen volleyball coach Jeff Crins.
They say it’s a relief to have at least a few people on board to help out.
“I didn’t know how much work it would be going in,” said Carufel.
The Northmen 5K team has been holding meetings every Saturday to stay on task, with work that’s included creating the event website, reaching out to sponsors and setting up schedules for race day. Then, there’s the paperwork, with permissions and collaboration required from the police and fire departments, as well as NSAA to lock down the field. Then, of course, there’s promoting the race, with design and distribution of promotional materials including flyers and posters.
They also have outreach plans to bring in participants, including state police and the school’s sports teams.
“Because proceeds go to (the athletes,) it would be nice to have them involved,” said Beauregard.
The seniors will also need to recruit and organize many volunteers to help the event run smoothly, from registration, to passing out snacks and refreshments, and presenting awards.
“There needs to be a lot of help,” said Beauregard. “We want anyone who’s willing to help, because the volunteers are just as important as the people who are running in it.”
Beauregard and Carufel won’t get to race themselves this year, but will be found driving around in a golf cart making sure all goes off without a hitch.
Carufel’s dog, however, a Miniature Schnauzer, will participate, as will – if all goes as planned – many dogs from both in and out of town. While details have not yet been finalized, the pair is hoping that staff from the Cumberland-based Hotel for Homeless Dogs will join with the pups in their care.
“We want to invite them and all of the dogs to run,” said Carufel.
Runners have been permitted to bring their furry friends in the past, but this year, the pets are expressly invited.
“We kind of want to encourage it more this year,” said Beauregard.
The race will also raise money for America’s Gold Star Families, a not-for-profit organization created to assist those grieving any military loss through active duty service.
There are plans for refreshments and food at the event and participants will park at the high school – including the tennis court lot off of Grange Road.
With a lot of work – and a little luck – it will all come together May 4. Sign ups have not yet gone live but those who hope to run are encouraged to follow the event on Instagram for updates.
Anyone interested in volunteering on race day is asked to email Northmen5k2024@gmail.com.