By Victoria Necessary

Last year’s inaugural Brookhaven Bolt drew 624 participants — competitive runners, walkers, community supporters — and raised more than $19,000 for Ashford Park Elementary School.

With that success behind them, Bolt committee members hope this spring’s edition of the 5K race will pump even more money into their neighborhood public school. The committee already has attracted more than 1,500 supporters for the run and related festivities Saturday, May 16.

The run will begin at 8 a.m. that day at the elementary school and wind through the neighborhood for 3.1 miles, ending at Ashford Park. Walkers will start five minutes after the runners. Organizers also are planning for parents pushing babies in a stroller stroll and for schoolchildren racing in a fun run.

A nonprofit group, the Brookhaven Bolt Community Association, organizes the event to benefit Ashford Park Elementary and to create a communal celebration for the neighborhood.

Ashford Park students are doing their part in the pre-race strategizing as they work on plans to decorate the race route.

After the race, the park will be the place for food, other refreshments, music, sponsor booths, T-shirt distribution and playground fun at the Family Community Finish Line Festival. Organizers also plan an evening celebration at Hudson Grille in Brookhaven Station.

“The Bolt is less about a 5K race and more about community and the fundraising aspect,” race director Bill Sluben said during a recent Bolt committee meeting at the school.

Ashford Park Elementary School Principal Tori Fallon concurred. She said the $19,000 raised by the 2008 Bolt purchased a laminator, copy paper, a smart board for the faculty and vacuum cleaners for the janitorial staff.

This year’s wish list includes a closed-circuit television system for media presentations, playground equipment and the completion of the school’s outdoor classroom.

Bolt committee members expressed appreciation for the response to the first Brookhaven Bolt and the support they are receiving this year. That support will help the school continue to improve.

Said Nancy Douglas, co-president of the school’s PTA: “Once families find their way to APES, they often ask themselves, ‘Why was I paying $12,000 in tuition at that private school?’”