This article originally published in the Tulsa World
When 24-year-old Kelsey Quick decided she was going to host a Pokemon-themed run, she thought she could find at least 10 to 15 people who would be interested.
After posting her idea in the Tulsa Pokemon Go Facebook group, that number skyrocketed, she said. More than 1,000 people registered online in a matter of days for Tulsa’s first Pokemon Go 5k.
Quick suddenly had some planning to do.
With help from area sponsors and volunteers, hundreds of Pokemon enthusiasts swarmed LaFortune Park on Saturday for an evening dedicated to promoting being active, enjoying the augmented reality game and supporting a local cause.
Proceeds from the 5k will go to James Mission, a local nonprofit that provides clothing, toiletries, furniture and other goods to foster families and families in need.
The evening kicked off around 5:30 p.m. near the park’s gardens with attendees browsing vendor booths stocked with Pokemon trading cards, puzzles, stuffed animals and other merchandise. Nearby, lines of people waited to design their own personalized Pokemon-themed T-shirts.
Broken Arrow resident Diana Richardson bought a blue T-shirt featuring a red and white Pokeball with an olive branch and eagle feathers, reminiscent of the Oklahoma state flag.
For Richardson, being surrounded by so many Pokemon-loving people was surreal. She’s been playing Pokemon for close to 20 years — before it was cool, she said.
“It’s just bringing people together everywhere,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Bixby mom-and-daughter duo Ginny and Kodie Myers came ready to jog in the 5k in matching Pokeball outfits. The pair have run races together before, but they decided to participate in this race after Kodie helped hook her mom on the game.
“You get to interact with all kinds of people,” Ginny Myers said, “and it gets people out of the house.”
For Tulsa resident Michael Thomas, getting out of the house and on the chase for new or rare Pokemon is what the game is all about.
On one occasion, Thomas spent around four hours at Swan Lake, near 17th Place and Utica Avenue, hunting down Pokemon, he said.
Before the race began, clusters of people sprawled near the park’s gazebo, which doubled as the location of a Pokemon Go gym where players battle against each other.
Creating a place where people could come together and enjoy a common pastime was what the event was all about, Quick said.