The I-5 Back to School Dash began in 2006 when the team at I-5 Toyota in Chehalis wanted to come up with a way to raise money for college scholarships that was fun for the entire family. Since then, the 1-5 Dash has helped 111 students with scholarships. This year the 5k run/walk returns on August 27 at 9:00 a.m.

“We are thrilled with how many students we have been able to help over the past 11 years and we are excited to continue to support these local kids that work so hard to get an education,” says Heidi Pehl, dealer principal at 1-5 Toyota. Heidi graduated from W.F. West High School and attended the University of Washington as a scholarship student. She put together the dash that takes place annually on the Sunday before Labor Day as a way to promote the scholarship program.

Being a scholarship student herself, Heidi understands the importance of education and giving back to her community. That is why she created what is now known as the I-5 scholarship program. The scholarships are awarded to graduating seniors who have made a significant contribution to their high school and/or community and have a desire to pursue post-secondary education or training. Dubbed “The Average Joe Scholarship,” grades are not a significant factor in scholarship selection. “I wanted to target students that may not have access to as many scholarships as students with high GPAs,” she explains.

Each year, Heidi forms a selection committee that decides which Lewis and Thurston County high school students will be recipients. The number of awards varies year to year, based on how much they earn at the run. Heidi admits that they usually end up awarding more than they raised, because there are so many deserving students.

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All proceeds from the I-5 Dash go to support local school scholarships. Photo courtesy: I-5 Cars.

The dash starts and ends at the I-5 Toyota dealership just off 1-5 at exit 79 in Chehalis. Register at least one week prior to guarantee a t-shirt. There will be other prizes as well and vendor booths. It’s a family-friendly, easy event. In past years, people have brought their kids, strollers and dogs to participate in the run, which Heidi says is a “go at your own pace” event. Some people walk, some run, but everyone one has a ton of fun raising money for our local students.

Helping Students Succeed

The scholarships have ranged from $250 to over $8,000. Students can use the money for community college, trade and vocation schools, as well as four year universities.

Amber Taylor received The Average Joe Scholarship when she graduated from W.F. West in 2013. She attended Linfield College in Oregon and played fastpitch. “The scholarship helped with books that I needed to start my first year in college,” says Amber. “Every dollar counts when you’re a college student. I am really grateful for Heidi’s generosity.”

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Bree Primiano accepting her I-5 scholarship at senior recognition night at W.F. West High School. Photo credit: Christie Primiano

Bree Primiano won a $750 scholarship in 2016. She went to South Puget Sound Community College and just graduated in June. “What a wonderful and amazing night we had at senior recognition when the scholarships were awarded,” recalls Christie Primiano, Bree’s mother. “We would like to give a huge thank you to I-5 Toyota for blessing Bree with the I-5 Toyota Scholarship. She was so honored. It really helped us and her in furthering her education.” Bree is currently applying to nursing programs at several schools.

Students wishing to apply for next year’s scholarships may do so now. Applications must be in by May 1, 2018. The application and more information can be found on the 1-5 Toyota website.

For more information, visit the I-5 Toyota’s Facebook page or check out their I-5 Dash video.

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