Barrington couple launches Miles for Smiles running event to help local YMCA families
Mike and Kristin Kiss of Barrington like challenges. The two former athletes at Barrington High School set out 10 years ago to run a half-marathon in all 50 states, a goal that they accomplished in four years.
Since then, they have run something like 95 half-marathons between them. But, in more recent years, their priorities have expanded to include two little ones, namely Kayla, 5, and Colin, 2.
As a family, they scaled back on destination races, but they remain avid runners and continue to train at the Buehler YMCA in Palatine.
"Kayla and Colin have called the YMCA child care their home away from home on the weekends since they were both infants," Mike Kiss says.
"Having a safe, loving and interactive environment for children in the community not only provides us with peace of mind, but we can focus on our own health and wellness."
With their strong connection to the Y, and still loving a challenge, the couple created a one-day charity event called Miles for Smiles. It is an event where athletes can log miles to support underprivileged youth served by the Buehler YMCA.
This year's event takes place from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, Feb. 22, at the Buehler YMCA, 1400 W. Northwest Hwy. in Palatine. For details or to register, visit www.ymcachicago.org/buehler/blog/entry/miles-for-smiles.
During last year's inaugural event, 15 athletes ran the equivalent of six marathons and raised more than $4,000. The proceeds were used in a variety of ways to support young people, including scholarships for youth summer camp, membership fee assistance for families and other programs specifically aimed at supporting and developing underprivileged youth.
This year, the couple is expanding the format to include running, cycling and swimming.
"We're trying to make it more inclusive," Mike Kiss says. "Athletes are not held to a certain time or mileage total, but rather they can participate for any duration they choose, in any or all of the three activities."
Their goal is to raise $6,000, bringing the total proceeds since its inception to $10,000. They promise a 100% return of funds raised going directly to serve local children, and pledge to avoid costs -- such as T-shirts and medals -- that would otherwise cut into the goal of the event.
Officials at Buehler say the need is real. Sandy Bollenbacher, who directs its financial assistance program, says that last year the organization awarded $124,260 in financial assistance to approximately 156 individuals and families for just the kinds of programs the Kiss couple is trying to make accessible.
Most come from Palatine, but the Y also draws families from Arlington Heights, Rolling Meadows, Hawthorn Woods, Buffalo Grove and Barrington.
Additionally, Buehler partners with WINGS and its women and children fleeing domestic abuse, and JOURNEYS/The Road Home, which serves the homeless and those at-risk of losing their housing, by offering three-month memberships to the clients and families they support.
Bollenbacher points to the overall mission of the YMCA of Metro Chicago, which is to develop strong children, families and communities across Metropolitan Chicago.
"Last year, only 12 applicants were denied assistance as they did not meet the criteria set forth by the YMCA of Metro Chicago," Bollenbacher says. "It's because of the generosity of members like Mike and Kristin Kiss, Buehler is able to offer assistance to anyone who wishes to join the YMCA."