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Christopher Jason Parker prepare to run for Heroes for Hope. Photo by Rowan Lehr

A group of runners and volunteers known as Heroes for Hope are training for their seventh 5K to raise money for several nonprofits through a trek down the Trinity Trails Saturday morning.

Christopher Jason Parker, otherwise known as Grapevine’s Dark Knight, met Heroes for Hope founder and president Alisha Grady at a signup booth for her 5K in an Academy Sports + Outdoors in 2016, right around the time he first donned the cowl.

“I introduced myself and explained my intentions to provide smiles as Batman,” Parker said. “She was eager to invite me to be part of the fun after some background checking. Next thing I knew, Batman arrived at the event and never looked back.”

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Parker’s wife fully supported him suiting up. Parker said he and his wife both have been spreading love and good deeds through their 20 years of marriage. He just so happens to be able to do a lot of good by visiting sick kids at Cook Children’s Medical Center dressed as Batman for the Make-a-Wish Foundation and a handful of other local charities. “The Batman outfit started as a Halloween outfit that quickly became popular, and requests for appearances started to roll in,” Parker said. “Once I realized that others seriously appreciated the visits, I utilized my connection with Make-a-Wish through my job at BNSF Railway,” and the rest fell into place from there.

Grady’s heart for philanthropy stems from her mom and 15-year-old niece being diagnosed with cancer a day apart in 2009. “Our family was pretty devastated,” Grady said. “We prayed. They fought with courage and dignity. In 2011, we lost my mom. However, my niece is almost 10 years cancer-free.”

An avid runner, Grady signed up for St. Jude Heroes, a marathon based in Memphis, to give back and indulge in the local Memphis barbecue. Inspired by the marathon and the local grub, she decided she could start her own 5K in Fort Worth. Grady told one of her sisters the only way she knew to raise a lot of money would be to hold a 5K, and the best way to entice people to sign up would be to give out free beer, barbecue, and medals. “My sister, who isn’t a runner, was like, ‘Beer and barbecue at 8 a.m.?’ I told her to trust me. It will be like gold to runners. My little sister designed the medals. We got barbecue and beer donated and were off. We themed it superheroes and encouraged everyone to run on a hot August day in Texas in a superhero costume.”

Heroes for Hope officially began in 2013. “Our mission is to help individuals and families facing life’s most difficult times,” Grady said. “Our main areas of interest are childhood cancer, military veterans, and homeless/elderly.”

This year’s 5K starts at 7:40 a.m. at Acme Brick and will have three categories: a 5K run/walk, Fort Worth’s only kids’ marathon, and a mile-long Walk of Valor. Support will be raised through donations and dressing up for all families fighting childhood cancer at all Dallas and Fort Worth children’s hospitals.

Since nobody likes heatstroke, “Batman will make the one-mile Walk of Valor!” Parker said. “Bats don’t do so well in the daylight. However, it’s my pleasure to talk with participants and take as many pics as possible before having to depart.”

Grady said the most rewarding aspect about what they do is how their core group of 15-20 people, all of whom have full-time jobs, come together. “We work incredibly hard to provide hope and make a real difference in peoples’ lives when they are experiencing unimaginable times,” she said. “I’ve fallen in love with this organization and hope to be in a position to assist them for many years to come,” Parker said. 

Heroes for Hope 5K, Kids’ Marathon, and one-mile Walk of Valor 

7:40 am Sat at Acme Brick, 3024 Acme Brick Plz, FW. $20-25. 817-705-6489.

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