A massive run or walk that raises millions of dollars for a big-name charity is great, but it's not for everybody. Most charities don't have the staff or resources to stage one of those events. But even the smallest charity can piggyback on Saturday morning's DuPage Human Race, which provides the charity runts a chance to run with the big dogs -- in some cases, literally.
"We're pet-friendly, and there's not a lot of charity races that allow pets," says Shefali M. Trivedi, executive director of Giving DuPage, sponsor of the sixth annual DuPage Human Race, which begins at 9 a.m. at The Esplanade at Locust Point, 1901 W. Butterfield Road in Downers Grove. To register, visit dupagehumanrace.org.
"The vast majority of our nonprofits have a staff of two people or less. It's difficult for them to pull off this kind of event," Trivedi says. So Giving DuPage, whose mission is "to promote giving and volunteering," handles all the details for the 5K race and 2-mile walk and allows local charities to focus on recruiting participants and raising money.
"It's huge for organizations like us," says race veteran Susan Sperry, executive director of World Relief DuPage Aurora, who is running again this year. "To see such an outpouring of support is so energizing."
While it is hard to put a price on unity and making connections with like-minded people, World Relief also has surpassed its goal of $7,500, with more than 200 registered participants already raising more than $11,000 this year. "What's going on in our country and world has raised awareness about immigrants in our community, and a lot of people want to do something tangible to show support and welcome for immigrants and refugees," Sperry says.
The idea of joining forces for an inclusive charity event has been around for decades, but Giving DuPage started hosting the event in 2012 after seeing how well the McHenry County Human Race did with its first event in 2011. The first DuPage Human Race drew 982 runners and walkers and raised money for 28 DuPage County charities.
This year, the group expects about 1,900 participants to raise money for 72 charities, says Christine Kickels, a Giving DuPage board member in her second year as race chair. A reference librarian and professor at the College of DuPage, Kickels is too busy with the race details to run in it, though she is a marathon runner who has competed in several Boston Marathons. Her husband, Mark, and their 13-year-old daughter, Morgan, also volunteer to help make the race go smoothly.
During the previous five years, the event has drawn more than 6,800 participants and helped 135 charities raise more than $347,000, Trivedi says. Giving DuPage splits the entry fees with the charities, but the charities get 100 percent of the money raised.
"There's such a variety -- from pets to seniors to veterans to feeding the hungry to refugees," she says. "The vast majority (of runners and walkers) are coming to support their charity. They are there to support their cause. Most of the people are coming for the love of their charity."
Runners who come solely for the competition still must pick a charity to support.
Of the 30 people who already have signed up online to raise funds for her All Life Animal Rescue, 23 are strangers, says Lisa Zarkin, 45, of Naperville, who, with Taylor Cosgrove, a 21-year-old University of Illinois student from Yorkville, runs the charity that rescues dogs and other animals.
"I'm the first charity alphabetically, and people love animals," Zarkin says in explaining All Life Animal Rescue's popularity, which she hopes could raise $3,000 for a charity looking to buy a transport vehicle and find a permanent location.
Inspired by the success of the DuPage Human Race, Giving DuPage is launching a new "do-gooder" (#DoGOODDuPage) program today at givingdupage.org/dogood, in which the charity wants to connect 150,000 "DoGOODers" with good causes.
"They are DoGOODers," Trivedi says, adding that she is confident the community will respond, thanks to the example set by the DuPage Human Race supporters. "They already have the street cred as someone who cares about their communities."