PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD)– Easterseals Central Illinois kicked off its Run, Walk & Rally 5K, Saturday morning.

Hundreds came out rallying for those in need and Easterseals Central Illinois families said they truly felt the love from the community.

Participants sprinted through to the finish line in East Peoria’s Levee District.

“This is our most record-breaking year, almost 400 of our closest friends here with us today and it just means the world,” Easterseals Central Illinois community engagement manager, Molly Hogeboom said to not only Easterseals… ’cause the proceeds from this event will go to support our mission.”

Everyday families benefit from Easterseals services, education, outreach and advocacy.

Community members like Desirae Smick (aunt to an Easterseals patient) say the organization is life-changing.    

“They are a family extension to us,” said Smick. “So they provide occupational therapy to us. They provide speech and physical therapy to Dylan (her nephew). Being able to give back to that and to see what he does everyday to develop and improve is huge.”

The goal of Easterseals Run, Walk & Rally helps local kids with developmental disabilities and delays feel 100% included and 100% empowered.

Seventh-grader Talon Wettstein’s sister Annalisa has spinal muscular atrophy.

The two have been through so much together, and that’s why he said it’s important for him to be there for the race and for his Easterseals ambassador sister.

“I just like running and seeing all the people Easterseals helps, ’cause it really impacts me,” Wettstein said.

All of the funds raised from the event stay in the community to help the children of central Illinois.