A dozen charities to benefit from local 5k race

By: Jeremy Selweski | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published June 11, 2014

 Runners make their way up Romeo Plank Road during last year’s Run the Plank 5k walk/run and charity fundraiser. The third annual event will be held on Saturday, June 28, starting at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Macomb Township.

Runners make their way up Romeo Plank Road during last year’s Run the Plank 5k walk/run and charity fundraiser. The third annual event will be held on Saturday, June 28, starting at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Macomb Township.

File photo by Erin Sanchez

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Fun and philanthropy, families and fitness, community and camaraderie — all of these things and more will be on full display when Run the Plank returns to Macomb Township on Saturday, June 28.

The third annual 5k race and charity fundraiser continues to grow each year. In 2012, the inaugural event attracted nearly 1,000 runners and raised about $20,000 for a pair of worthwhile organizations. Last year’s race upped the ante by bringing in more than 1,400 participants and generating around $45,000 for a dozen local nonprofits. This year, lead organizer Mike Fontana has his sights set on at least 1,800 runners and $50,000 raised.

“We’re trying to make it bigger and bigger — until we have to worry about it becoming too big,” he said with a laugh. “That would be a good problem to have, though.”

Once again this year, there will be 12 metro Detroit-based charities that will split the proceeds from Run the Plank. These include Angels of Hope, Compassion Pregnancy, the Epilepsy Foundation of Michigan, the Futures Foundation, the Macomb Charitable Foundation, the Macomb Food Program, the Macomb International Service Center, the Macomb County Rotating Emergency Shelter Team (MCREST), St. Vincent de Paul, the Team Angels Foundation and Trinity Community Care.

“We have some real credibility in the community now, so lots of charities know who we are and want to be a part of this,” Fontana said. “Out of the 12 charities who are getting a piece of the pie this year, we actually have seven new ones.”

Run the Plank, which is subtitled “3 Miles of Faith,” is hosted each year by three local churches situated along Romeo Plank Road: Immanuel, St. Peter and St. Isidore. The early-bird registration fee is $30 per runner by June 14, while the price bumps to $35 per runner from June 15-27.

“There are a few new things this year because we don’t want it to just be the same old, same old,” Fontana said. “But at the same time, if it ain’t broke, we’re not going to fix it. So we mostly just made some small tweaks here and there.”

The 5k walk/run will begin at 8:15 a.m. at Immanuel Lutheran Church at the northeast corner of 21 Mile and Romeo Plank, and will finish at St. Peter Lutheran Church at the northwest corner of 24 Mile and Romeo Plank. All participants will receive an official purple-and-white Run the Plank T-shirt and wristband, as well as a cinch bag and a medal.

Runners are also invited to enjoy a free pasta dinner at St. Isidore Catholic Church, located at the northwest corner of 23 Mile and Romeo Plank, from noon to 8 p.m. on Friday, June 27. Fontana noted that this meal will give runners a chance to load up on carbohydrates before the race, as well as to pick up their official race packet.

“Last year, we had a line out the door at noon,” Fontana recalled, “so we definitely learned our lesson. We’ll be buying a lot more pasta this year.”

After the race is over on June 28, participants are encouraged to spend some time catching up with old friends and making new ones at the Family Fun Fair, which will be held at St. Peter from 9:30 a.m. to noon. There, they will be treated to free food and beverages, while kids will be entertained by inflatable bouncers, a clown and face painting.

Those who cannot attend Run the Plank but would still like to contribute can make a monetary donation at www.runtheplank.com. All three churches are also seeking donations of paper products such as tissues, toilet paper, napkins and paper towels for people in need.

As Fontana explained, “These are basic necessities that most of us take for granted but that a lot of people don’t have, unfortunately.”

In addition, runners are invited to shop and dine at businesses along the Romeo Plank corridor and the surrounding area. Through July 6, they can wear their Run the Plank T-shirt or wristband at participating businesses such as Shield’s Pizza, The Coney Grille and Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt to receive special deals and discounts.

“We want to bring some money back to Macomb County businesses, to provide a little economic boost during Fourth of July weekend,” Fontana said.

But above all, Run the Plank is a charity event. It isw intended to give back to the community by supporting nonprofit groups that benefit local populations in need. One of the returning charities from last year is the Macomb Charitable Foundation, which operates with the goal of helping Macomb County children living at or below the poverty line.

According to Julie Wright, a board member for the foundation, there are currently about 1,200 registered homeless children living in Macomb County. The Macomb Township-based organization supports these kids by providing everything from food and shelter to clothing and school supplies, and a successful event like Run the Plank can offer it a major boost.

“We are very blessed to be one of the recipients again this year,” Wright said. “This event is really about neighbors helping neighbors, about taking care of our own, and that’s always been one of our biggest missions as a foundation. We try to help kids live a normal life while their parents search for a more stable living situation.”

Another returning charity this year is Angels of Hope, a nonprofit group headquartered in Macomb Township that assists local children with cancer and their families. According to Sue Fournier, volunteer director for Angels of Hope, all money raised at Run the Plank will benefit the organization’s Kids First grant program. The program provides grants ranging from $2,500-$4,500 for families that need help with mortgage payments, grocery bills, transportation costs and other necessities.

“Last year, we were able to help over 100 families, and probably 30 percent of our funding came from events like this,” Fournier explained. “We are so pleased to be a part of it again. This is a community-based, church-based event that gives people a way to give back to their community. It’s lots of people coming together for the greater good.”

Fontana is a firm believer that beyond the warm and fuzzy feeling of contributing to a worthy cause, the greatest thing that Run the Plank offers its participants is a huge overall value. He is proud of the fact that for only $30, runners get to enjoy two days of physical activities, social celebrations, and delicious food and beverages, plus an additional week of shopping discounts.

“This is one of the best valued charity events in all of Michigan, in my opinion,” Fontana said. “It’s really well-run, priced very fairly, and it happens to be in a great location. This is a safe, clean, family-friendly atmosphere for everyone, and every dollar goes back to support our community.”

To register, donate or learn more information, go to www.runtheplank.com.