Start of a previous year's Spirit Run. (Courtesy of Jim Collins / February 4, 2011)

*This corrects an early version that misstated that each school had to contribute $20,000 to keep the event running in the past.

NEWPORT BEACH — After concerns that it had reached the finish line, the annual Spirit Run returns to the Fashion Island area March 27.

And, for the first time, every Newport-Mesa Unified school will be able to benefit.

The 28-year-old event, which used to focus on the schools that fed into Corona del Mar High School, will now open its arms — and purse strings — to every campus that wants to lace up.

The family-oriented community event features races for adults and youths.

"We want it to be as big as we can," event organizer Diane Daruty said at her Newport Beach home Thursday. "The bigger it is, the more money we raise, the more we give back to the schools."

The Spirit Run was traditionally organized by the parent teacher associations of the five elementary schools — Harbor View, Andersen, Eastbluff, Newport Coast and Lincoln — that feed into CdM.

This year, all five schools dropped out.

That's when Daruty, a competitive marathon runner and mother of two, stepped in and created a nonprofit organization and board of directors to run the event.

"When I found out this wasn't going to go forward, I was almost in tears," she said.

Daruty has been working on the Spirit Run for the past five years. She called it a unique event that gives youngsters a chance to break the finish-line tape in youth-only races.

"It's a great community event, it's a great fitness event, it's a lot of fun," she said.

Organizers also want all students to participate with the creation of a scholarship for low-income students that would cover the race entry fees, which run from $20 to $48.

The offering of scholarships for low-income students will help ensure that students throughout the district have the opportunity to participate, organizers said.

District officials will determine who qualifies for a scholarship, which the Rotary Club of Newport-Balboa is sponsoring, Daruty said.

"The Spirit Run has been a Newport-Mesa tradition, and the district is thrilled that it is continuing," district spokeswoman Laura Boss said in an email. "The offering of scholarships for low-income students will definitely help to ensure that students from throughout the district have the opportunity to participate."

Widening the scope of the event has allowed organizers to pursue more sponsors, such as the Rotary Club and Hoag Hospital, she said.

The Daily Pilot is also the Youth 5K Title sponsor.

Newport Beach Recreation Manager Matt Lohr said the city has partnered with the event for several years, because it benefits local schools.

The city also plans to hold a Camp Newport Expo to showcase more than 30 summer camps during the event. The event will feature rock climbing, bungee jumping, a skate park, a balloon artist and food.

If You Go

What: Spirit Run

Where: Edwards Cinemas, 300 Newport Center Dr.

When: 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. March 27

Costs: Entry fees per race vary from $20 to $48 for students and $25 to $48 for adults. Scholarships are available for low-income students who qualify.

Register: Online, or print out a paper form at http://www.nmspiritrun.org. Students can also register through their schools. Registration will also be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 26 at Road Runner Sports, 1835 Newport Blvd., and at 6 a.m. the day of the event.