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In Newton, road race raises money for medical supplies to help those suffering in Ukraine

Runners take off from the driveway of Exxcel Gymnastics and Climbing in Newton to start a 4k race while gym staff members throw blue and yellow chalk on Sunday. The race was held to raise money for medical supplies in Ukraine.Aidan Walsh

More than 100 runners in Newton Sunday wore the blue and yellow colors of Ukraine’s flag during a road race to help fund medical supplies for the country.

Exxcel Gymnastics and Climbing hosted the “Color Run for Ukraine,” which raised $5,000 for Sunflower of Peace, a Boston-based nonprofit that provides “tactical backpacks” for doctors and paramedics in Ukraine.

Katya Migacheva, executive director of Sunflower of Peace, and Yulia Kosheleva, her program manager, operated a booth at the event providing information about their humanitarian efforts and how the race proceeds would help.

The “tactical backpacks” cost anywhere between $1,000 and $1,200, and the cost includes high-technology medical supplies that are packed into the bag for professionals to care for injured people in Ukraine, Kosheleva said.


One bag can save the lives of 10-12 people, Migacheva said. They include surgical tools to operate on everything from wounds to collapsed lungs. She said she was delighted when Exxcel reached out to have the event.

“We are in awe of the gracious support and volunteers who are showing up to run,” Migacheva said. “It means a great deal.”

Tatiana Kamarskaya, owner and cofounder of Exxcel gym on Wells Avenue is originally from Kyiv, Ukraine, and said when the war began to escalate, she wanted to help in any way she could.

“I wanted this race to show somebody is behind Ukraine,” Kamarskaya said. “We are not forgetting them.”

Kamarskaya, who lives in Westwood, said her family, friends, and former acrobatic students still live in Ukraine.

“I wanted to be a part of something bigger than me,” Kamarskaya said about working with Sunflower of Peace.

Kamarskaya said she was already planning a fall race as conditioning for the athletes, but “it all began to get very real” when bombs hit about two blocks away from her parent’s home in Ukraine.


“If we’re already running, it might as well be for something,” said Kamarskaya, who said she began heavily researching the nonprofit to ensure the money would go to the people suffering because of the Russian invasion.

At the run, participants were decked out in Ukrainian colors and wore white in anticipation of supporters throwing blue and yellow chalk at them from the sidelines.

Known as a “color run,” the race included three loops along Wells Avenue. Kamarskaya said the event was open to the public, but many participants were the gym members and staff as well as parents.

Eliana Soiffer, a 15-year-old from Brookline who has been a member of Exxcel for 11 years, said it’s important to show up in times of suffering.

“This is a huge crisis,” Soiffer said. “Oftentimes events fade out in the media, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t happening.”

Before the race, Soiffer and her fellow teammates performed a dance choreographed by Kamarskaya to the Ukrainian song “Stefania” by the popular folk-rap group Kalush Orchestra.

Sarah Linder, who lives in Allston and is a coach at Exxcel in Newton, said she was excited to see her athletes run.

“Having fun outside the gym setting and seeing my students in a different atmosphere is really nice,” Linder said.

Confetti, color, and cheer started the runners off around 2:30 p.m. in two separate heats.

Anatoly Prekrasnyy from Cambridge and 2021 Boston Marathon finisher, won the race, clocking in at 15 minutes and 10 seconds. Prekrasnyy said he used to volunteer for Sunflower of Peace.


“This is an event I couldn’t miss,” Prekrasnyy said. “It’s not only a great cause, but [it’s] important to be here to support Ukraine.”