PUNXSUTAWNEY â Rain may be in the forecast for the immediate future, but organizers of the annual Run/Walk for Someone Special hope that Mother Nature will pour the rain this weekend, not next weekend.
âI think last year, we had a cloud looming over us, and it started to rain as the last runner crossed the line,â said Stacy Hanzely, executive director of the Arc of Jefferson-Clearfield Counties. âWeâve just been so fortunate with the weather.â
The Run/Walk for Someone Special, now in its 33rd year, will be held Sunday, April 1, starting at Town Hall in Sykesville (see box for details).
The event has been canceled only twice in 33 years, thanks to early, freaky spring-time snow, according to organizer Pat Mowrey.
âWho knows,â he said. âIf we get bad weather, we get bad weather.â
The Run/Walk is the Arcâs biggest fund-raiser of the year, or what Mowrey calls âthe big enchilada.â
The 2011 race drew 412 participants â some running, some walking â and broke its previous fund-raising total, taking in more than $45,000 for the Arc of Jefferson-Clearfield Counties and Camp Friendship.
âItâs growing every year,â Hanzely said. âLast year, we had more than 400 participants. Four years ago, we were barely breaking 200, but now, itâs almost doubled.â
Not only do funds raised through the Run/Walk help pay for maintenance and upkeep of Camp Friendship, in Reynoldsville, but they
also pay for staff and other needs. That includes four vehicles to transport campers to and from the site, Mowrey said.
Camp Friendship, which offers programs for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, holds three summer camp programs.
âWe have camps for Punxsy, Brockway and an autistic camp, and for each one of them, we have to pay for staff,â Mowrey said. âItâs great to have volunteers, but youâve got to have trained people in case thereâs an emergency.â
Sure, the Run/Walk attracts its usual supporters and those who raise funds throughout the year, but itâs also a physical event, attracting those who plan to compete in races elsewhere.
âWe have lot of people who just come and run,â Hanzely said. âThey pay $20 for the T-shirt, and they just come and run and leave. But the one thing I heard from a runner whoâs done over 600 events is, what he liked about about our event is itâs a five-mile, and a bit more of a challenge. So thatâs kind of a highlight.â
Hanzely came to know the Arc because she has twins with Down Syndrome, saying, âI was looking for support, and I happened upon the Arc, and the timing was right.â
She has now served as executive director for three years.
For Mowrey, the Run/Walk is an event that supports people he has known for years, and for a cause that makes their lives better.
âItâs like a family to me; itâs like a reunion to me,â he said. âI have known these people. I grew up with them. Iâve seen the benefits of Camp Friendship, and the fun theyâre having. And every nickel stays local. I hate when money leaves the area.â
The 2012 major sponsors are Robindale Energy Services Inc. and Flatirons Development LLC.