A local youth leadership and service organization will be host to two races April 8 to support guide dog programs for the blind.

The fourth annual Pickerington Paws 5K, hosted by the Pickerington Leo Club, is scheduled for April 8 in Sycamore Creek Park.

Registration for the event, which will include a 5K run/walk, as well as a one-mile run for children 14 years old and younger, is open and can be completed online at www.PickeringtonLions.com.

The cost is $25 for the 5K and $15 for the one-mile run. Those who register by March 25 will receive a free event T-shirt.

"We start with registration and packet pickup at 11:30 a.m. (April 8) at the corner of Ramar and Morningview avenues," said Bob Koch, Pickerington Paws 5K race director.

"We'll give away trophies to the top three finishers (in each division) and everybody who enters the race is eligible to win raffle prizes."

The Pickerington Paws 5K is organized annually by the Pickerington Leo Club, which is a local youth service organization affiliated with Lions Clubs International.

Lions Clubs often collect eyeglasses and raise money for eye exams for people in need. The Pickerington Leo Club for several years has supported Pilot Dogs, a Columbus nonprofit organization that matches trained guide dogs with blind people and others with sight issues.

Koch said Pilot Dogs will have some of their guide dogs at the race, and some race participants will travel the course while blindfolded and with the aid of a trained dog.

Additionally, people with socialized dogs accustomed to being in crowds are invited to run or walk the course with their dogs.

"Sight-saving is one of our main themes," Koch said. "Every penny we raise on this goes right toward people in Pickerington.

"It costs about $10,000 to train a pilot dog."

The 5K will begin at 1 p.m. and the one-mile run will start at 2:30 p.m.

The top three men and women, respectively, who finish the 5K race will receive trophies or medals, as will the top three boys and girls, ages 10 and younger and ages 11-14.

In addition to running or walking individually, the Pickerington Paws 5K is inviting teams of 10 members or more to participate.

The team that has the most members will be recognized and receive a laminated team photo.

"You don't have to run, though," Koch said. "You can walk the course if you want."

Raffle items will include a 55-inch television, a laptop computer and a "deluxe" grill.

"Last year, we had about 75 runners," Koch said. "This year, we're looking to grow and get around 200."

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