Inaugural Orion 5K rises on Memphis running horizon

Updated: May. 9, 2018 at 1:04 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Race directors are only human. After so many bites at the race directing apple, the temptation is to pass along the hassles, headaches, jitters and joys to a willing successor. After 20 years of directing a race that has occupied a huge part of my life and heart, this race director was feeling the temptation to move onward and upward out of the race directing trenches. Thinking along these lines one day last year, I stopped by our charity 5K's beneficiary, St. Patrick Community Outreach, Inc. on a quick errand.

A lady in an immaculate maid's uniform stopped me in my tracks.

"Pastor," she politely beckoned this electronic town crier, mistaking me for a man of the cloth, "my husband just got out of the hospital," she explained urgently. "I don't have a crumb of food to feed him in my house and don't have a dime to my name to go shopping at the moment," the woman shared.

St. Patrick's team of volunteers heard the sincere plea and promptly filled bags of groceries (including meats) for the woman as it does each Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The nonprofit agency operates Memphis' largest emergency food pantry precisely for people like the lady in uniform. This chance encounter was no accident. It caused a total recalculation of my pending race directing retirement!

Thanks to Orion Federal Credit Union, the St. Patrick's cupboard will not be bare this year as Orion FCU picks up the baton and carries forward a great Memphis running tradition that has filled Downtown streets for 21 consecutive years. Runners and walkers will be invited to line up at 7 o'clock on Saturday evening, June 9 for the inaugural Orion 5K benefiting St. Patrick Community Outreach, Inc.

The 3.1 mile course will take runners through historic Beale Street and alongside the Mississippi River with a finish line near FedExForum and St. Patrick Church. That's where great live music by Marcella and Her Lovers will welcome participants to a lively, family friendly post-race celebration featuring delicious food, cold beer and other refreshments.

"The Orion 5K race has a rich tradition in the Memphis community.  We invite all from the Mid-South to participate in this fun, family friendly event that shows off our city from Beale Street, to the river, and down South Main.  It's a unique race that celebrates our city's culture and hospitality," stated Daniel Weickenand, Orion CEO.

Formerly known as the Gibson Guitar 5K, the all new Orion 5K carries forward the tradition of benefitting St. Patrick Community Outreach, Inc., a 501 © Nonprofit that carries fresh fruit, vegetables and other healthy foods to parts of our community that have no easy access to high quality nutrition at cost. It runs the Green Machine Mobile Food Market, a MATA city bus renovated to serve as a rolling farmer's market.

In addition, St. Patrick's Community Outreach, Inc. feeds the hungry each Sunday at its headquarters located at Pontotoc Ave. and 4th Street near FedExForum. The agency operates the city's largest emergency food pantry in Memphis' most economically challenged zip code, 38126.

In years past, this charity 5K has funded an after school tutoring program, a computer lab, sports teams, music lessons as well as field trips for children from 38126, the zip code immediately south of FedEx Forum.Gibson Foundation, charitable arm of Gibson Brands, Inc., will carry forward its legacy of generosity this year by donating two factory fresh guitars for a charity auction at the 2018 Orion 5K.

Runners will line up east of FedExForum on 4th Street and run westbound through Beale Street, the "Boulevard of the Blues" to Riverside Drive for a spectacular half mile alongside the Mighty Mississippi River before running back through the south end of Downtown to the finish line where the post-race party will await across from FedExForum in the large parking lot at Dr. Martin Luther King Ave and 4th Street.

A Kid's Fun Zone will provide entertainment for the young among us while those of age enjoy Miller Lite from our friends at A.S. Barbaro, delectable delights from Mo's Southwestern Grill and other favorite Memphis food vendors.  The Orion 5K is part of the M-TOWN Series presented by University Clinical Health that starts with Zoom Through The Zoo (May 24),  Harbortown 5K (June 1) and Stars and Stripes 5K (July 3). Participants must compete in at least three of the M-Town series races and can win the overall championship as well as age group honors.

The Inaugural Orion 5K benefitting St. Patrick Community Outreach, Inc. is presented by Orion Federal Credit Union. WMC Action News 5 returns as media sponsor for this charity 5K race for the 22nd consecutive year.

Our generous sponsors include Main Street Denta/ Dr. Jodi Rump, the Chris and Michelle Clothier Family,  FedEx, Sharp, Robbins and Popwell, Southland Park Gaming and Racing, Woodard Properties and Landers Ford.

Thanks to the lady who mistook me for a pastor, this race director has fresh legs and a second wind thanks to our wonderful new title sponsor! Please join us. When you do, you'll be filling hungry stomachs and blessing many hearts.

  • WHAT: Inaugural Orion 5K for St. Patrick Community Outreach, Inc.
  • WHERE: Near FedEx Forum, 4th & Martin Luther King Ave
  • WHEN: 7 p.m., Saturday evening, June 9, 2018
  • WHY: To raise critical funds for St. Patrick Community Outreach, Inc., a 501 © 3 Nonprofit that feeds hungry children and families and operates the Green Machine Mobile Food Market.
  • WHO: The event is presented by the staff and volunteers of St. Patrick Community Outreach, Inc. You can volunteer as well by going to our website and submitting your name!
  • INFO: Call Joe Birch, Race Director at (901) 726-0419 or

Joe Birch is the evening news co-anchor on WMC Action News 5, the Memphis NBC television affiliate.

Joe celebrates 40 years of service at WMC in May 2018 and will celebrate this milestone at the inaugural Orion 5K with his family, Marcella and Her Lovers and you, good reader, if you're game for an evening run on June 9 and a post-party where the fun factor will be "off the chain."

Copyright 2018 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.