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County to give police, emergency services assistance to JFK race

September 23, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- The Washington County Commissioners voted 5-0 Tuesday to contribute as much as $2,800 worth of police and emergency services assistance to the JFK 50 Mile Ultramarathon, which will take place Nov. 21 on the Appalachian Trail, C&O Canal towpath and county roads.

The county donates Sheriff's Department overtime to the event each year, with last year's contribution totaling about $2,200, County Administrator Gregory B. Murray said.

The commissioners also heard a report on the event from Mike Spinnler, the event's director, and Thomas B. Riford, president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, one of the biggest sponsors of the event.

Riford said the JFK 50 brings $350,000 to $500,000 to the local economy each year, along with international publicity for the county. Riford also praised Spinnler for his organization efforts and said directing the race is a full-time, year-round job for Spinnler.

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Spinnler said when he took over the event in 1993, participation was dwindling and he thought getting 750 participants was an ambitious goal. This year, he said, the event had 1,000 registered participants -- the maximum allowed by the National Park Service -- in the first three days of registration. Thousands more had to be turned away, Spinnler said.

"I never realized how difficult it would be to tell people the race is closed," Spinnler said.

Spinnler said the JFK is rooted in military tradition and organizers are trying to make it service-oriented.

Last year, JFK 50 organizers donated more than $15,000 to local scholarship funds and $10,000 to the Wounded Warrior Project, which helps severely injured servicemen and servicewomen, Spinnler said. Organizers also recognize student volunteers by supporting high school athletic programs, he said.

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