HATTIESBURG – Runners laced up their shoes and made a splash for a cause during the 2023 inaugural Rodney Richardson Water Run at Town Square Park in Hattiesburg on Saturday. The event, organized by Ainsley Richardson, the executive director of Ddembe Ministries, aimed to make a positive impact on the lives of vulnerable children, widows and women affected by HIV in Jinja, Uganda.

The race wasn’t just about competition: it symbolized hope, unity, and community power, bringing the Hub City residents together for lasting change and empowerment in Uganda. 

The event featured water soaker stations, a whimsical bubble station and a water spray finale provided by the Hattiesburg Fire Department. Visitors also had the opportunity to explore the Ddembe Shop, where they could support widows by purchasing artistic treasures that celebrated Uganda’s rich culture and provided sustainable income opportunities.

This inaugural 5K race was also a heartfelt tribute to the late Rodney Richardson, a local business leader and cofounder of Ddembe Ministries.

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Eric J. Shelton was a 2018 corps member in Report for America, and joined the team as our first photojournalist. A native of Columbia, Miss., Eric earned his bachelor’s in photojournalism from the University of Southern Mississippi. He was a multimedia journalist for Abilene Reporter-News, chief photographer for the Hattiesburg American and photo editor for the Killeen Daily Herald before joining our team June 2018. He rejoined Mississippi Today as our health photojournalist in January 2022.