About the Gavalas Kolanko Foundation

The Gavalas Kolanko Foundation was established by Nicholas B. Gavalas and Dr. Ronald Kolanko. Mr. Gavalas and Dr. Kolanko came together to form the GKF in 1999 after becoming aware of the costly requirements for students with disabilities wishing to attend college. As influential members of the Charleston community, they assembled a dynamic board, supportive staff, and a strategic plan for success.

Gavalas Kolanko Foundation members strive to assist students with their secondary educational costs, and increase support and awareness of their needs.

Since its inception the Gavalas Kolanko Foundation has awarded more than $800,000 and awarded 134 scholarships to Lowcountry students attending College of Charleston, Charleston Southern University, The Citadel, Trident Technical College, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), and the Art Institute of Charleston.

Fundraising - The History of the Run

Following the establishment of the Gavalas Kolanko Foundation, its founders determined that a major fundraising event was needed to fund scholarships. They wanted to create an event that would not only bring to the forefront of the public’s mind the needs of students with physical disabilities, but also assist the Foundation’s mission of helping those students obtain a college education.

In the Fall of 1999, Nick Gavalas, Ron Kolanko and the Gavalas Kolanko Foundation Board organized the first annual Charleston James Island Connector Run. They believed crossing the Connector would be a challenging route for competitive runners due to the inclination of the bridge, yet a scenic route for casual walkers to enjoy the amazing view of the Charleston Harbor. The race grew from year to year in the early 2000s. In the spring of 2003, Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr., awarded the Gavalas Kolanko Foundation a proclamation naming the first Saturday of each November as “Students with Disabilities Day.” Later that year, the Charleston James Island Connector Run evolved into the city’s flagship event marking Students with Disabilities Day and honoring the special students in our area who continue to thrive in the classroom despite their special needs.

In 2011, the James Island Connector Run Committee expanded the event to include the only point-to-point 5K run in the state, and a 10K Fun Bike Run.

Visit the website for the Charleston James Island Connector Run

Our Founders

Dr. Ronald Kolanko

Founder, President & CEO

Dr. Ronald Kolanko is owner and Board Chairman of Atlantic Occupational Health, Inc. D.B.A. AOH, "Industrial Medicine Specialist." He is a graduate of Lincoln College, and is a national and international lecturer on health and insurance.

Nicholas B. Gavalas

Founder, Vice President & CFO

Former General Agent of The South Carolina Agency for MassMutual Financial Group, and a 1972 graduate of The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina. Nick began his career as an agent with Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company in 1972, and became General Agent of The South Carolina Agency in 1985. For 36 years, he led his organization through uncertainty, economic booms and busts, and product commercialization while growing revenues from $1 million to over $120 million.

Our Board of Directors