More than 600 participants raced along Front Street on Saturday during the 13th Annual Chase Race and Paws event to raise money for the Friends of Conway Animal Shelter and the Haven House.
"The event sponsors two great causes with the animal shelter ... and the Haven House, which is obviously a great local charity," University of Central Arkansas Associate Journalism Professor and Conway resident Donna Lampkin Stephens said, noting the atmosphere of the event and knowing the funds are going toward great causes keeps her coming back each year. "It's fun. I've done it for at least six years with four different dogs. It's fun to be out there with all these people who are just as crazy about their pets as [the Stevens] are."
The Chase Race was create by Don and Cheryl Potter in March 2006 as an event to celebrate their son's life. Donald Lee "Chase" Potter was 13 years old when he died of a traumatic brain injury in 2005. Chase was an avid animal lover and his parents are both runners. That combination led to the creation of the Chase Race, which celebrates Chase's life while also raising funds for abandoned pets and promoting Conway's adolescent residential facility.
This year was "the biggest and best yet," Don Potter said.
"It was the best race we've ever had as far as participation, sponsorship and weather," he said of Saturday's event. "I cannot say enough to thank those who came out and supported us. It was a record as far as sponsorship."
Saturday's event saw a total of 628 participants and around 125 dogs — and also one miniature horse.
Many participants dressed their pets in themed outfits, including two friends who brought their dogs, Roo and Luna, dressed as a police officer and an inmate respectively.
Other dogs were dressed in outfits that included butterfly wings, dresses, St. Patrick's Day leprechauns and more, while others ran alongside their owners with just their everyday fur-baby attire.
The event features two races: a competitive two-mile race/walk and the 1-mile companion run for runners and walkers with their leashed pets.
Lampkin Stephens ran with Ruby, her 14-year-old Dachshund.
"It's just a hoot. I'd heard about it for several years [before participating]. Now, we won't miss it," she said. "Ruby had a good time. It's just one of the highlights for the Stevens family."
Lampkin Stephens said the Chase Race is a "feel-good event" that she plans to be a part of for many years to come.
Chad Curtis McCarthy took his 3-year-old daughter, Elena Rose, out to Saturday's event.
He said he was glad for the experience to let his daughter run alongside others at a young age and take part in something that goes toward a greater good.
"I ran my first mile when I was 3, and I'm just trying to pass on the same habits to [Elena]," McCarthy said Saturday after crossing the finish line with his daughter. "It's good for the kids to get out and exercise. Plus, the event was a lot of fun."
Saturday's event raised nearly $25,000 to go toward the Friends of Conway Animal Shelter and the Haven House.
Potter said he wanted to thank all of Saturday's participants and sponsors, noting he hopes the 2019 race tops this year's event.
The 2019 Chase Race and Paws event will be on March 9 in downtown Conway.