Big Run VFW taking over fall groundhog run

PUNXSUTAWNEY — The Big Run VFW Post No. 9044 is the new coordinator of the Groundhog Fall 50K trail run, which in the past has been managed by the Punxsy Road Runners Club.

Bob Lott, Big Run post quartermaster, said over 1,000 runners have participated in the race in the past, but the running club had decided to discontinue operating it.

The race will be held Saturday, Sept. 10, in Punxsutawney.

The day after Veterans' Day, some local veterans were invited to Longview School for a special program, and two younger veterans asked questions about possibly joining the VFW, Lott said, adding that it is unusual for younger veterans to ask about the VFW.

"We're (Post No. 9044) always looking for opportunities to bring younger members into the post," Lott said. "If we expect to keep guys interested, we can't continue to cater to WWII veterans and expect younger guys to be involved."

Lott said that was when he had the idea to take over the 50K race, an activity that he had participated in and thought younger veterans might be interested in.

He had two reasons why the VFW took over the race, Lott said.

"Come up with an activity that would draw younger people into the post, and the VFW needed a fund-raiser," he said. Post members voted to be the new coordinators of the trail run at their December meeting.

Lott said the Big Run VFW, like other posts, operates on a very limited income.

The members of Post No. 9044 are hoping they can get some sponsors for the trail run and bring in more funding so they can expand their programs, Lott said, adding that CRW Home Center in Punxsy is the first sponsor, but there's a need for more.

Lott said the VFW has sent out letters to businesses and other potential sponsors and is in need of more in order to make the trail run a success.
Some of the race expenses include a dinner the night before at Gobbler's Knob, arranging housing for some of the runners from out of town and setting up aid stations for the 31-mile run, Lott said, adding that the race begins on North Findley Street by Ragley's True Value Hardware, and the course runs past the high school, then the middle school, and out past Beyer Avenue.

Lott said the first two miles of the race are on paved roads and the dirt road of Beyer Avenue, before it becomes a trail run.

Any profits the VFW makes will come from sponsorships it obtains, Lott said.

The post is very youth oriented with activities such as Patriot's Pen Program for 6th, 7th and 8th graders and the Voice of Democracy program for 9th through 12th grade, in addition to working with the scouts and teaching flag etiquette in the Punxsutawney Area School District.

Once the students return to class, the VFW programs will begin again, he said. The winners receive a post award and are then sent on to state and then nationals.

Lott said the post has received a VFW Community Service award twice before, even with a very limited budget.

The post's patriotic programs include the Sept. 17 POW/MIA Day, the Nov. 11 Veterans' Day and the Dec. 4 Pearl Harbor Day.

For more information about the race or other VFW programs, call 938-4589.