Inaugural Live Well San Diego 5K helping kids without parents

Charger player Nick Hardwick backs adoption effort

SAN DIEGO - Nearly 2,000 people turned out for the inaugural Live Well San Diego 5K on Saturday.

Some ran and others walked, but all had a part in raising awareness about the county's foster and adoption programs.

Chargers player Nick Hardwick was one of the first people there.

He showed up as a star, signing autographs and taking photos but he did it because he is a father with a soft spot for kids.

"To see kids out there who don't have parents who really care for their kids and give them everything they need, but there are folks out there who want to help and want to step up and want to be those parents," he said. "It's really a beautiful thing."

Saturday's event was not just about caring for kids but also about promoting a healthy lifestyle. For Ernie Valles, it was the first day of a big change.

"Today is the start of a journey to become healthy," he said.

It was his very first 5K. He does not know how much over 300 pounds he weighs because he had dreaded stepping on a scale.

"I've neglected it for a long time, and I realize that I need to pay better attention and make better choices and not just go on a diet but live a healthy lifestyle," said Valles.

He cares a lot about helping kids because he works with a youth and family services nonprofit and has seen the heartbreak.

Crossing that finish line meant a lot to him. A little behind Valles was Hardwick, who crossed hand in hand with his small son. That was not the only life he seems to be shaping.  

Hardwick may not have thought much of a photo shoot he did with foster kids years ago until one of them showed up at a game last year.

But it was not his friendship with a star athlete the boy was bragging about, it was bragging about his new mom and dad.

"It was the most amazing thing, and I was so proud," Hardwick said.

That is what the 5K was all about – connecting people who care with the kids who need them.

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