Each of the last two years, we've brought you the story of Long Valley resident Zach Rice and his "Action for Distraction" 5K, which is now nearing its fourth annual run and continues to grow in popularity and outreach.

"Distracted" by video games
"Distracted" by video games (Jupiterimages, Brand X Pictures)

The idea came to the now-13-year-old several years ago, when he was twice hospitalized for a hip infection. During one of his hospital stays, Rice's father brought a video game system to his room, and Zach found that the distraction of playing his games took his mind off the pain.

Soon after, inspiration struck.

"I know that we can't really get through the day and all, I'm currently taking 45 minutes to get out of bed," Rice said to his mother. "Can we start a charity?"

The first Action for Distraction took four months to organize — a much smaller window than most 5Ks — yet still raised $18,000 for gaming systems to be provided to Goryeb Children's Hospital in Morristown. By the time this year's event has wrapped up, Rice estimates he will have raised upwards of $70,000 total.

Rice also has a new reason to promote the race: He recently went to Washington, D.C., to be honored as one of 10 national Prudential Spirit of Community Award winners, selected for his community service efforts. He said not only will the award give more visibility and fundraising capability to his cause, but it also allowed him to pick the brains of the other honorees.

"You're just trying to improve your event and make it better, so you get a whole new aspect that you probably would not have gotten if you hadn't met these people," Rice said.

The Action for Distraction 5K takes place Saturday, May 21, at Loantaka Brook Reservation in Morristown. The race starts at 9 a.m., and those who have not already registered will be able to do so, and pick up their race packets, beginning at 6 a.m. that day. Shuttle buses to the site will be available. Numerous special guests and other "distractions" will be on hand, including a mobile gaming truck, face painting, and a caricaturist.

Find out more at actionfordistraction.com.

Patrick Lavery produces "New Jersey's First News" and is New Jersey 101.5's morning drive breaking news reporter. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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