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November 16, 2012

Another successful year for Big Bird

By Sara Kandel
C & G Staff Writer

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Runners were greeted by sunny skies for the 10 a.m. start to the 4K run at the 34th annual Big Bird Run in Roseville Nov. 11.

ROSEVILLE — Sunny skies and warmer-than-usual temperatures greeted runners at the Big Bird Run in Roseville Nov. 11.

The event was a success in its 34th year, bringing out 817 runners of all levels of experience and ages — the youngest registered runner was 2 years old, and the oldest was 83 years old.

Roseville resident Steven Sparks, 31, finished the 10K in 43 minutes. He’s a soldier home after seven tours of duty — three in Afghanistan and four in Iraq. Still on active duty, Sparks is now stationed in Detroit and was able to participate in the run for the first time.

“It’s nice to be home and taking care of the family but still be able to wear the uniform,” he said. “And it’s nice to be out here supporting the rec center. I played basketball and so many other intramural sports growing up. It feels good to be participating in a run that will give back to the rec center and the community.”

Sparks said he’ll be back for year 35 of the Big Bird Run, as long as he’s still stationed here at home.

St. Clair Shores resident Diane Pokorski ran the 4K with her 12-year-old daughter, Ashley. She said she’ll be back next year, as well.

“This was her first 4K where she actually ran most of it, so I’m very impressed,” Pokorski said, with a nod to her daughter. “My goal next year is a 10K. This is the closest race I’ve ever run. I’ll definitely do it again.”

Father-son duo David and William Hofmann, of Grosse Pointe Woods, ran the mile in their second year participating in the Big Bird, after doing the 4K route last year.

“I’ve been running since high school,” said David Hofmann. “Now he likes to run, and I enjoy running with him.”

William Hofmann, 11, came in first place in his age group in the mile with a time of 5 minutes, 40 seconds.

“I’ve been running with my dad since I was in fourth grade,” William Hofmann said.

Both said they enjoyed the ease of the mile route and likely will return again next year.

It was Grosse Pointe Park resident Shelly Daywalt’s first time participating in the event, and she, too, said she’ll be back again to run next year.

“There was perfect weather and it was a perfect route,” said Daywalt, who ran the 4K. “It was a lot of fun, and there was a lot of enthusiasm and good energy.”

Roseville residents, city officials and Recreational Authority board members and employees lined the route and finish line to cheer on the runners.

Bobbie Wilson, the assistant director at the rec center, was stationed near the finish line, calling out some runners by name to root them on and telling others they were almost there. She remained in high energy from the first runner to the last.

“We are really pleased with the turnout and volunteer response,” Wilson said. “We are very pleased with the amount of volunteers that came out to support the event. It’s a great event. Great day.”

One of those volunteers was Police Chief James Berlin, who, along with dozens of other officers from the Roseville Police Department and the Roseville Reserves, worked traffic control. The Roseville Fire Department was on hand to assist in any medical emergencies and make sure everyone stayed healthy and hydrated.

“It’s been all-volunteer since the very first one they had way back in 1970-something,” Berlin said. “It’s just one of those annual events that is part of the city. It’s a very worthwhile city event. There are hundreds of people having a good time. It’s a fun event.”

Multiple civic groups worked the event, as well, with volunteers from the Roseville Kiwanis Club, Roseville Goodfellows, the Roseville Optimist Club, Roseville Handicapped Association, Roseville Caring Klowns, Lions Club and the Roseville High School Band Boosters stationed along the route, helping at registration and passing out fruit and drinks in the gym after the race.

Proceeds from the event benefit the charities that support the event. Last year, a total of $8,311 was divided among the charities that assisted on race day. Tony Lipinski, the director of the Recreational Authority of Roseville and Eastpointe, didn’t have final proceeds tallied for this year’s race at press time, but he offered an estimate.

“I think the event went very well,” Lipinski said. “I do not know how much we made yet, as I do not have all the invoices in yet, but my guess is we should be able to give out $7,000 or more, at least.”

It’s the sense of community organizations and residents coming together that bring residents like Mayor Pro Tem Robert Taylor out to support the Big Bird Run every year. Taylor has never missed a race and said it’s one of his favorite events in the city, but this year, he said, it was about more than the awesome feeling of community that the run always brings. This year, he said, the race was about Roseville coming back.

“It’s a great event for the city, and between this and the fireworks, I think we are coming back.” Taylor said. “I think Roseville is trying to do everything it can to make the citizens of Roseville enjoy living here, and this particular event is a gem.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Sara Kandel at skandel@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1030.