5K race will make couple's wedding day even more memorable

5K race will make couple's wedding day even more memorable

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By LORI TUCKER
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - It's down the home stretch for the Ready to Run crew as they train for their first 5K run.

They will be running the 5K Race and Fun Walk, which benefits Volunteer Ministry Center's programs to end or prevent homelessness.

It's now Week Six of training and there's only one more week to go.

The group that is training together has grown. It has been rewarding meet all the special people, but for this training session there was something even more special about the gathering. It was a bridal party.

The bride and groom were Julia Pender and Joey Leonard. They walked hand in hand on the track.

The couple is anxiously awaiting their big day, and we don't just mean race day. Their wedding day is September 24, only a few hours after the 5k.

Along with the couple, Julia's mother and father, Sheri and Rev. William Pender, wanted Julia and Joey's special day to have added memories by helping someone else.

Understandably, though, Julia and her mother have to tend to too many last minute details to run in the race.

Julia won't be running in her bridal gown. "I don't want to ruin all the beading," she said.

But there's more to the story of this beautiful bride, who has always felt a certain kinship with the homeless.

"I always sort of had felt like I had a connection some way and never knew how exactly," said Julia. "It just feels like I want to help out in some way."

As a little girl, before being adopted by the Penders, Julia was found by police wandering the streets.

"She's adopted from Russia," said Sheri, "and at one time was homeless on the street as a four year old."

So as Julia tries on her veil with mom's help and proudly shows off her ring and white beaded wedding gown, the family can't help but think of what could have been. They're grateful for the blessing Julia's life turned out to be.

"It has been a marvelous, marvelous journey," said Julia's father, William.

Rev. Pender and his soon-to-be son-in-law plan to run the 5k, along with other members of the bridal party.

Even the grandparents are coming out to walk the course.

"We're very excited," said Sheri. "It's the excitement of the whole weekend has escalated, the race has been a piece of it. I think that it's going to be a day that none of us will forget."

The 5K Race and Fun Walk starts at 9:00 a.m. September 24 at the World's Fair Park Festival Lawn.

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