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May 1, 2013

Hazel Park’s 5k benefits anti-bullying group

May 4 event raises awareness for ‘If It Was Only Fair’

By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer

MADISON HEIGHTS — The licensed nonprofit If It Was Only Fair (IIWOF), started by husband-and-wife duo Andrew and Stephanie Martin, has been making headway at Hazel Park High, where every Thursday night, 10 to 30 students meet to discuss the problem of bullying in a safe and accepting environment. 

The morale-boosting support groups started when the Martins met with Hazel Park High’s leadership class at the end of 2011. The groups took form over the course of 2012, and they continue to grow in 2013. But in order to fully execute their anti-bullying initiatives, they will need more funding.

Enter Hazel Park’s first 5k run/walk in years, organized by and benefiting IIWOF, with assistance from the city of Hazel Park.

The 1st Annual If It Was Only Fair Race Against Bullying 5k Run/Walk is set for May 4. The run/walk starts at 10 a.m., with registration beginning at 8:30 a.m. Registration is $25 per person, and those who sign up in advance receive a special shirt.

Look for the sign-up tent at Hazel Park High, 23400 Hughes, to register for the event. The run/walk will then begin at the corner of Hughes and Felker.

From there, the route proceeds north on Hughes to Woodward Heights; west on Woodward Heights to John R; south on John R to Felker Avenue; east on Felker to Melville; north on Melville to Woodward Heights; west on Woodward Heights to Hughes; and then south on Hughes, back to where the race started.

Andrew said the 5k event is the latest in a series of IIWOF fundraisers that have also included concerts and golf outings.

“I want to branch out and get more people involved, so I decided to do a 5k event,” Andrew said. “I attended some 5ks to get a feeling for the atmosphere, and when I saw how genuinely positive these runners are, I thought, why not do our own 5k event?”

He called Hazel Park City Manager Ed Klobucher and soon found himself proposing his idea to Klobucher and Shelley O’Brien, the management assistant to the city manager; Barb Scott, the city’s recreation coordinator; and Tom Jones, DPW foreman.

“As soon as they realized how passionate I am for raising money for this, they were immediately on board and really excited to be of any kind of assistance,” Andrew said.

City officials are all helping in various ways. For example, O’Brien drafted a letter soliciting business sponsors to offset the cost of the event, while Jones will arrange lane closures and secure race necessities, like portable restrooms. 

Bullying is a serious concern, Andrew said.

“It (bullying) is a problem that communities seem to recognize but often overlook,” Andrew said. “It’s an issue where people tend to know that it’s out there but don’t seem to do much about it until it personally affects them.”

In recent years, Andrew noted, the Journal of American Medical Association found that more than 160,000 students skip school every day for fear of being harassed by their fellow students.

Sometimes this harassment takes the form of verbal sparring or physical contact, but other times the abuse is subtler, like when the victim feels they can’t sit comfortably in class because of psychological pressure created by an oppressive few.

IIWOF aims to address all of this. The Martins’ work is invaluable, said Christine Hill, owner of Fairy Tale Flowers at 941 E. Nine Mile, one of IIWOF’s earliest sponsors.

“I will do anything it takes to help push them forward,” Hill said. “They have the most spontaneous ideas, and they’re here for the kids, 110 percent. Bullying is such a dominating thing these days, so it’s nice these kids can go to them and talk to them or connect with other kids who feel bullied as they try to solve this problem.

“It takes a big person to step forward and start an organization like this, instilling confidence in young people, which will help them as they grow older, whether it’s high school, college or a job, helping them to cope with and deal with bullies,” she said. “I’m so proud of Andrew and Stephanie. They’re angels.”

The 1st Annual If It Was Only Fair Race Against Bullying 5k Run/Walk is set for Saturday, May 4. The run/walk starts at 10 a.m., on Hughes Avenue just north of Felker Avenue near Hazel Park High, with registration beginning at 8:30 a.m. Registration is $25 per person, and those who sign up in advance receive a special shirt.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Andy Kozlowski at akozlowski@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1104.