Running for a Reason

Running for a Reason

Last month, I wrote about the rising fees and rising number of firms getting involved in the racing business, from marathons to triathlons. I questioned some things, and poked fun at others. This month I want to approach the subject of racing cost from a different angle.
For every large race promotion company out there charging you $200 dollars to try a triathlon, there are 10 grass roots, nonprofit organizations trying to raise a couple of bucks with a $15 dollar 5k race. And if you knew the story behind the race, you''d realize you really can''t pay enough when it comes to the race fee. So in the interest of “equal time,” I thought I''d pick out one of the many races in our area that you''ll see in the newspaper, or on a pamphlet, but probably means nothing to you beyond the date, the distance, or the dollars.

Ever wonder what happens to kids with mental retardation, who can''t run or think fast like you, when they grow up? I do. I have a physically challenged sister. When they turn 40, their parents are turning 60-plus, or they''re passing away. What happens then? Who takes care of these special needs adults and gives them a sense of purpose in their life? The answer is places like Apple Patch in Oldham County .

“There is a huge, hidden population of individuals with mental retardation whose parents are over 60,” says Apple Patch Development Director Joe Spoelker. “ The parents have been taking care of these children since they got out of school, and there''s a very limited number of projects and services. The numbers are in the thousands in the Louisville area, who are over 21, with mental retardation or some type of developmental disability, and there''s a very limited number of projects and services, limited residential and day programs and life skills training,
and Apple Patch works to be one of them.”

Apple Patch offers a 5k race on Sept. 16. For your race fee of $15, you get a T-shirt. You also get a chance to see where every penny of your money is going because it all goes to the charity, and the residents of nearby Apple Patch community are right there helping put on the race. There are 33 of them, living as independent a life as possible in special houses across the county. The goal is to move them all into the Apple Patch community now under construction out there, from homes to workplaces to a church. Obviously, it costs lots of money to run a program like this. And obviously, the money they make off this race is but a drop in the funding bucket. And like many races around here, they''ve seen better times when it comes to sponsorship.

“We used to get $40,000 in sponsorship for this race from Mattress Warehouse,” Spoelker explains, “but the man behind it passed away 3 years ago. We don''t make that much off it anymore. We do receive some money. But it''s also a way to get visibility in the community. And our participants, which has grown from 20 residents and 33 people in the day program, they''re invited and they get to walk and help us set up and serve refreshments. So it''s not only a fund-raising opportunity, but also friend-raising.”

When you walk through the Apple Patch community, and meet the residents there, you''re struck with the zest for life they have. You can''t remember the last time you were filled with that much enthusiasm. You realize how lucky you are, and how lucky these kids-in-40-year-old-bodies are to have someone taking care of them like this. And when I say “taking care” of them, I mean in more ways than one. Physical fitness is also a big concern here.

“One of the first acquisitions we had when we were setting up the day program was, we requested and received funding from the Kentucky Colonels and got four treadmills and two bikes and part of the daily activity is to get on the treadmill. It''s by choice. We can''t make them but we encourage that and most participate. At least one day and week, and usually two, they go the Y and swim. So fitness is an integral part. Up to 75 percent of them have gotten in better shape when they''ve gotten to Apple Patch because the exercise opportunities are here every day.”

The Apple Patch 5k is part of the Oldham County Grand Slam of Running this year, a series of 4 road races. You can run or walk. When I''ve raced in it, I appreciated every step I took a little more than usual. There are scores of races out there sponsored by organization like Apple Patch.

So instead of choosing your races based on dollars, dates or distance, you might consider choosing one based on “impact.” You won''t complain about the cost. You might run a little faster. And even if you don''t, you might be more satisfied with your finish time, because you may realize how lucky you are to be a healthy competitor.

John Boel is a 41-time Emmy winning news anchor at WLKY-TV. He''s married, with two daughters, and is an avid runner and triathlete.

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