The best way to kick off the week is with joy, and this week’s Joy Beat nominee brings us just that. Dave and Judy Gorman have brought the joy of movement and the outdoors to kids in Brockton through the program Kids Road Races

For nearly five decades, they’ve hosted races in the community as a Saturday activity for local kids. Every spring and fall, the Gormans held short races for eight-week stretches at a time — and they’ve kept it accessible, charging just $1 per child.

But after 47 years, they’re calling it quits: they’ve just completed their final season. 

The impact Dave and Judy have left in their community is palpable. One listener, who nominated the Gormans for the Joy Beat, called it “the most wonderful, joyous event you can imagine.”

“My daughter’s been doing it for a couple of years; she’s nine. It’s amazing. Everyone cheers for everyone else as they’re coming in. It’s just incredibly supportive and positive. People who run it as kids are back with their kids, you know — even some people’s grandkids. People have been doing it for years and years. It’s incredible, it’s a great energy. My daughter will miss them very much.”

Dave and Judy Gorman joined GBH’s All Things Considered host Arun Rath for this week’s edition of the Joy Beat. What follows is a lightly edited transcript.

Arun Rath: First off, before we take a look back at how this all started, congratulations on completing your final season! Tell us a bit about how you’re feeling.

Dave Gorman: Mixed emotions. You know, we’ve been up there for 47 years — every Saturday. It’s just mixed emotions. We met some great friends, and you hear the kids [saying], “What are we going to do if you’re not here?” and all this stuff. So we did our part, we feel.

Judy Gorman: It all started many years ago when my son was five years old. We brought him up to the park to run. There were some races going on, and he really loved it — he just took off, and he ran a nice race.

And then, the man that was doing it needed to give it up, and so Dave said, “Well, we’ll do it for, you know, a couple of years until somebody else comes along, and here was the beginning of it. Correct, Dave? Or, you can fix it up.

Dave: You know, it was part of the Community Cool program, and they did away [with the program] because of budget cuts and all that. They did away with the money to fund the races in the park.

My good friend was the guy that was [running the program], and I ran cross country with [him] at Brockton High. I was up there, and he said, “We’re gonna stop it.” And I said, “No, you can’t stop it. I will do it somehow, some way.” So, here we are.

Rath: Talk about how it grew from that point.

Dave: Well, there’s nothing like that for kids around, you know what I mean? There’s nothing like that. There’s Little League baseball, and they get all dressed up. But we did something we felt was affordable for kids and families to do because everything gets so high — everything’s so expensive.

Anybody can run — they just need a pair of sneakers. They don’t need a baseball glove. They don’t need this; they don’t need cleats. Just get a pair of sneakers, come up and run around the park.

Judy: Also, over the years, we did find that if they [adults] were from different towns, or even here in Brockton, and they enjoyed running, they often brought their children up to try running. So it was a place to see, to feel out if the child would like running, and many of them did. And it started growing. We had many children [who] came to the races.

Dave: From all over — you know, Quincy, Brockton, Middleborough, all over the South Shore. We even had a couple of kids — one came from Worcester every Saturday, and one came from Newport, Rhode Island, to run a dollar race in D.W. Field Park. It was unbelievable.

Rath: At this point, when you got to the last races of this season, how many of those kids are you seeing that had their parents running in it before them?

Dave: Oh, a great deal.

Judy: Yeah. This season — over the last couple of years, almost — we saw a lot of the parents and grandparents up there supporting the children that were running.

“They don’t need a baseball glove. They don’t need this; they don’t need cleats. Just get a pair of sneakers, come up and run around the park.”
Dave Gorman

Dave: Yeah. They just — it was unbelievable. The kids that ran 40 years ago, they’re bringing their kids. They’re mother and father were back, too — the grandparents, now. They were having a ball.

Judy: Oh, it was wonderful. It was really, really nice and very heartfelt. It was [a] very nice, warm feeling we received.

Dave: I don’t know who’s happier up there, the kids or the grandparents and parents. Oh my God.

You know, the race starts right on top of the hill, and you can cut through the woods, and you can see the kids with about a mile to go. And once the race starts, everybody runs back to see the kids at the mile marker. And then, they’re trying to run back to try and beat the kids to see them finish. It’s pretty comical.

Judy: It’s a little challenging for the parents.

Rath: Two races going on at the same time.

Dave: Yeah.

Rath: Tell us a bit more about the last race. That was just this past weekend. It must have been a big celebration.

Dave: Unbelievable.

Judy: We had a feeling that we’d have a lot of people there coming to support the whole race and all. We had over 200 people at the park.

Dave: We had the district attorney, the mayor, a representative of the city council. I was going to put in my name and run for something — I think I could get a lot of votes!

But, oh my God, it was unbelievable. I walked around all day with people coming in and talking to me and saying, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

I had tears in my eyes most of the day. And now that I’m thinking [about it], I’m getting tears in my eyes again.

Judy: It was very nice. We had many grandparents that we had never seen. Lots of weeks the parents bring them up, but this time, they brought their whole families up — grandmothers, grandfathers, siblings, aunts and uncles, too.

Dave: You know, we’ve done this for 47 years, but we also do different races in Brockton. We’ve done the Jingle Bell Run, which is held at Christmastime, through the Brockton Enterprise Helping Hands Fund to raise money for charity.

Over the 21 years — we did it for 21 years — I think we raised over $400,000 dollars for charity. We’ve done that constantly. We’ve done things to raise charity for the Brockton High Scholarship Fund. Some kid gets it, so we would raise money for that.

We raised a lot of money for different charities and different people over the years.

Rath: You two are amazing!

Dave: Yeah. It’s unbelievable. When the phone rings, I’m afraid someone’s going to ask me to do another race.

Rath: Is there any sense that there could be a successor? Anybody who could step up the way that you did 47 years ago?

Judy: We’re not sure. A few people are interested, but we do two series: an eight-week series in the spring, and then we do an eight-week series in the fall.

Dave: I told my son I was going to leave it to him, and he just ran away.

It’s just so many people we helped, and we know we did a good job because people were there. We had kids who went to every college: military college, we had kids who went to West Point, Annapolis, the Air Force Academy, and all over the place. We had kids who went to Harvard, graduated from Harvard.

All the kids that run seemed to be the smartest ones in their class. You know, they’re all National Honor Society [members], they all get scholarships and all that.