It's always a great story when a community rallies around a cause. And it's even more special to me when the rallying point involves running, and it benefits a cause close to my heart in my own community.
They called this year's edition of the No Frills half marathon, 'Making it Happen for Marshall'. Marshall Bell is one of the sweetest 10 year old boys you will ever find. He is a member of my church, and I've known him for several years. He loves the Chicago Bulls, sports, video games and lots of the other typical things 4th graders enjoy. But Marshall also suffers from Muscular Dystrophy.
That's why the organizers of Elmhurst's No Frills run made Marshall the recipient of the proceeds of their run. And when they say 'proceeds', they mean 100% of the gross. Yes, everything they bring in goes straight to Marshall's family to help him get a motorized wheelchair.
This is the definition of a grass roots effort. The two Elmhurst moms who came up with this idea four years ago put this together with help from other volunteers and sponsors who donate supplies, raffle prizes and facilities. Kristin Morrow and Dawn Wheatland joke that their families don't see much of them in the weeks before the race. But it's no joke. It's a tremendous amount of work, but it culminates in a fantastic day that brings everyone together for the run and after-party. That party also brings in lots of non-runners as well, to celebrate, and bid on silent auction items.
So let's talk about the run. It begins with Marshall and his 4th grade classmates singing the National Anthem at the start line. And then, after a few words from the Mayor, we're off, running carefully on the snow-packed prairie path east from York rd. in Elmhurst. It's cold, and slippery. But we are inspired.
Runners have two options for distance. The full half marathon is two loops on the path, in which you pass the starting area a total of four times. Since I've been slowly recovering from an injury, I chose the shorter option, the 'half-half', or 6.55 miles.
Volunteers are on hand to stop traffic on the streets as we cross to continue on the path. Other volunteers handle water stops at the turn-around points on the path. Marshall's mom, Judy, might have been the most enthusiastic cheerleader along the course. And I gratefully accepted water from her along the way!
There is a clock at the finish line, but this is not really about time, other than making sure you have a fun time. There are prizes for the winners, which were donated by local businesses. I was not in contention for a prize. In fact, I believe this might have been the slowest I've run in a timed event in many years. But I made sure to get the 'have fun' part down.
There will be lots of other runs and races during the year. I will probably get in shape eventually, and run times I will be pleased with. But I doubt I will have as good a feeling about another run as the 'No Frills'. I hope we helped make it happen for Marshall. He helped remind us all of what's really important in life.
See you on the roads......