RUNNING has brought Rio dela Cruz to places he probably never dreamt of when he was growing up as one of 14 children in a hardscrabble life.
Now it is through the sport that the man widely known as the face of Philippine running is paying it forward.
For the second straight year, Coach Rio is combining two of his great passions- running and education - as he holds the 2014 World Vision Run for underprivileged children.
Almost 5,000 runners are expected to take part in the run for a cause set on Saturday at the Bonifacio Global City after every category - 21K, 10K, 5K and 3K - managed to attract maximum entries with only a few 500 meter race left to fill. Public demand has forced organizers to open additional 10K and 3K slots using 2013 race kits.
Pamela Millora, World Vision public awareness manager, said they explored the World Vision Run since Coach Rio is also a child sponsor.
“Coach Rio may not have been a beneficiary but he’s paying it forward. He was once helped by individuals (to obtain his) scholarship (at the University of the Philippines). We actually share his story with the sponsored kids - he was once like this, he studied and worked hard to get his scholarship,” she said during the WVR press conference.
World Vision has adopted running since it’s an event that would help them engage the public and their target market and has proven to be a good venue for them, considering their corporate partners and sponsors.
“Every year we ask ourselves if we should push through (with the run) but we end up deciding in favor since there are committed sponsors who are willing to partner with us in this event,” Millora explained.
“This is the second year we’re supporting the World Vision Run. Education is one of my No. 1 advocacies. World Vision supports kids by putting them in schools with the aid of sponsors. I might not have come from the same program but I have a foster father who helped me finish my studies. For me this is giving back,” Rio told Spin.ph.
"My wife and I each sponsor a child. Naniniwala ako na education ang best way na mag-aahon sa kahirapan sa mga kabataan natin ngayon. Let’s support them para hindi masyado mahirapan yung country.
"It’s a feeling I can’t explain. Being part of something na hindi lang ikaw ang nakikinabang and at the same time na mo-motivate at nai-inspire sila. Hopes the run generates more sponsors."
Fortunately, Rio is not the only famous face World Vision can rely on in not only spreading their message of hope but of also in sharing what they preach.
According to associate director Jun Godornes more than 70 celebrities are sponsoring kids via World Vision.
Jasmine Curtis-Smith, Sam Concepcion, Miriam Quiambao, Doug Kramer and his wife Chesca recently sponsored kids. Also active supporters are Jan Marini and husband Gerard Pizzaras as well as actor-triathlete Matteo Guidicelli who supports the cause.
Most impressive is model-host Marc Nelson who adds two children every year and now has 15 child-recipients.
“We cannot do this by ourselves. We’re creating a movement of champions for the well-being of children,” Godornes said.
For this year’s run 8,000 kids stand to benefit in the form of sponsorships.
For just P600 a month, a child from a remote community is provided with proper education, health care; livelihood for the parents, values formation and child participation-community development - all focused on the child’s well-being.
Actor Aljur Abrenica, who has sponsored two girls and is one of the run ambassadors this year, embraces the chance to share the message of World Vision.
“I believe the kids are our future leaders and education is very important for a better community," the Kapuso star told reporters.
Come Saturday, the famous and the not-so-famous are united by a common cause according to director Gorospe.
“It’s the kids. Some of them have a thing for the environment. Some of them have a heartbeat for the nation but their common denominator is children," he said.
It’s a good thing the kids can count on Rio and other running enthusiasts, since every kilometer they run brings a child steps closer to their dream."