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Altamont teen organizes race for help

After Lily Rowen of Altamont traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend a Save Darfur rally in 2006, she headed home empowered and inspired to fight for the cause.

Two years later, the Run for Darfur 5K is being staged in Schenectady Sunday, April 27, with the proceeds benefiting the people of the war-torn country who have endured violence, murder, rape and torture.

I think that the genocide in Darfur is a pretty prominent issue and in our country, it gets overlooked a lot, said 17-year-old Rowen, now a senior at Guilderland High School. At the rally, Rowen listened to actor George Clooney and politician Barack Obama speak on the issue, and she realized thousands of others shared her same concern.

"I think it was the amount of people who cared because I found that a lot of people here really didn't know or really didn't care," said Rowen of the rally that ignited her efforts to organize a benefit.

An avid cross-country runner, Rowen felt a race would be an effective way to unite runners and those sharing a concern about the situation in Darfur.

Situated in African's Sudan, Darfur is an area about the size of Texas with roughly six million inhabitants who are among the poorest in the country.

After decades of small-scale conflicts in Darfur, two rebel groups mounted an insurgency against the central government in 2003. In seeking to defeat the rebel movements, the government of Sudan increased arms and support to local militias who have wiped out entire villages, destroyed food and water supplies, and systematically murdered, tortured and raped hundreds of thousands of Darfuris. Already, more than 200,000 people have died in the conflict and another 2.5 million have been driven from their homes, according to the International Rescue Committee.

Rowen's efforts to raise awareness about the crisis in Darfur haven't gone unnoticed by others in the community. Josh Freidman, a University at Albany junior was surprised to learn a high school student was the motivating force behind the race.

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