Nonprofit organization hosts fundraiser for Thailand youth camps

Thursday, August 18, 2011 | 6:31 p.m. CDT; updated 8:17 p.m. CDT, Thursday, August 18, 2011

COLUMBIA — The Brighter Thailand Foundation, a local nonprofit charity, is hosting a 5K walk and run next week to support children and teenagers in Thailand.

Last year, about 30 people participated in the event, which was held at Cooper’s Landing and raised more than $1,000. This year, the second annual fundraiser starts at 8 a.m. Aug. 27 at the Flat Branch Park entrance to the MKT Trail.

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To register for the 5K walk/run, go to

“Walk, run, or if it stays this hot, you could even crawl!” Lesley Sapp, vice president of research and development for the foundation, wrote in an email to recruit people for the run. Sapp participated last year.

While most participants last year were either local family members or friends of organization members, this year the foundation advertised on a run-race website to attract more amateur and professional runners from different places.

“We are expecting about 30 to 50 people to participate,” Thitinun "Ta" Boonseng, founder and president of the Brighter Thailand Foundation, said.

This event is one of the two main fundraisers the organization hosts to benefit youth leadership camps in Thailand. The two six-day camps in October are for children from 8 to 12 and teenagers from 15 to 18. The camps are for Thai youths who show leadership potential and who might not have the opportunity to attend otherwise. Camp activities help build international relationships through leadership experiences and learning about American culture.

“It is for the kids to learn to be independent, to work as a team and to expand leadership potential,” Boonseng said.

Boonseng, who earned a master's degree in educational technologies from MU, loves to work with youth and believes leadership skills are important.

“We believe for a country to develop and advance, we have to begin with the youth,” he said.

Melody Von Engeln, 29, works with both Sapp and Boonseng at the Asian Affairs Center at MU and heard about last year's run. Although she is not a runner, she decided to participate this year to support the cause.

“Developing youth and helping them with their goals and future is valuable,” Von Engeln said. “It’s for the future of Thailand, really.”

As a coordinator of MU's International Leadership, Excellence and Professionalism program, she also invited her students to join the event.  

“I am here to support, to have fun in nature and exercise,” Von Engeln said.

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