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Macomb Township

Run the Plank 5k race to raise funds for 12 charities

June 26, 2013

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Jacqueline Brewer, of Sterling Heights, is met by her 3-year-old daughters, Violet and Ava, at the finish line of the inaugural Run the Plank 5k race last year. The 2013 edition of the event will be held this Saturday, June 29, in Macomb Township.

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — It’s time to break out your running shoes.

This Saturday, June 29, is the date for the second annual Run the Plank 5k marathon along Romeo Plank Road in Macomb Township. The event — which is subtitled “3 Miles of Faith” and hosted by local churches Immanuel, St. Peter and St. Isidore — will also serve as a fundraiser for a dozen nonprofit organizations.

According to Mike Fontana, lead organizer of Run the Plank, the decision to bring back the charity run/walk was a no-brainer after its highly successful inaugural outing in 2012. Although the first Run the Plank was put together in only five months, it still attracted nearly 1,000 runners, raised $20,000 for the Macomb Intermediate School District (MISD) Homeless Education Project and collected hundreds of shoes for Soles4Souls, a Nashville-based organization that donates new and used footwear to impoverished people all over the world.

“Last year, we budgeted for 500 runners, but then we got hit with 168 walk-ins the day before the event,” Fontana explained. “We ended up with 918 total runners, and for a first-year event, that’s just phenomenal. Nobody thought that we’d be able to put everything together in only five months’ time, but we did it.”

The registration fee for Run the Plank is $35 per runner. The race will begin at 8:15 a.m. at Immanuel Lutheran Church at the northeast corner of 21 Mile and Romeo Plank roads, and will finish at St. Peter Lutheran Church at the northwest corner of 24 Mile and Romeo Plank roads. All participants will receive an official 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 roads, from noon to 8 p.m. on June 28. As Fontana pointed out, “A lot of runners like to load up on carbs before a big race, so we’re giving them an opportunity to do that.”

After the race is over, participants are encouraged to spend some time unwinding and socializing at the Family Fun Fair, which is being held at St. Peter from 9:30 a.m. to noon. There, they will be treated to free food and beverages, and kids will be entertained by inflatable bouncers, Oopsy Daisy the clown and the Hamburglar from McDonald’s.

As if that weren’t enough, runners are also invited to shop and dine at businesses along the Romeo Plank corridor and the surrounding area. Through July 7, they can wear their Run the Plank T-shirt or wristband at participating businesses such as McDonald’s, Shield’s Pizza and the UPS store to receive special deals.

According to Fontana, this aspect of the event is intended to give back to Macomb Township and the local economy. “We’re also just trying to provide great value to all of our participants,” he said. “We’re giving everyone several different free items and activities to enjoy, and I don’t know of any other local marathon that provides that type of value.”

Run the Plank organizers have set their expectations high for this year’s race. Fontana hopes to draw more than 1,500 runners and raise at least $50,000 through registration fees and sponsorships. Participating charities this year include Angels of Hope, the Compassion Pregnancy Center, the Good Shepherd Coalition, Hope Center in Macomb, the Macomb Community Life Skills Center, Lutheran Child & Family Service of Michigan, the Macomb Charitable Foundation, the Macomb Food Program, the New Day Foundation for Families, Trinity Community Care, Trinity Lutheran Social Ministries and, once again, the MISD Homeless Education Project.

However, Fontana stressed that Run the Plank will not directly benefit St. Peter, St. Isidore or Immanuel. “This was originally conceived as a faith-based event, but none of the money goes to the three churches — all of it goes to the 12 charities,” he said. “The churches are receiving emotional and spiritual support from this, but they’re not receiving any financial support.”

In addition, rather than collecting shoes this year, all three churches are seeking donations of paper products — such as toilet paper, facial tissues and paper towels — for people in need.

Kathy Kropf, homeless education liaison for the MISD, was thrilled to see the Homeless Education Project included on the list of Run the Plank charities for 2013. She pointed out that last year’s $20,000 contribution was the single largest donation that the program has ever received, and it allowed the MISD to purchase $50 gift cards for 400 homeless students across Macomb County.

“It was a brand new event last year, and we thought a lot of people might be on summer vacation, so we didn’t know what to expect at all, in terms of turnout,” Kropf said. “We went in thinking that we might get a few hundred dollars, so to get $20,000 was absolutely amazing. It was such an incredibly welcome surprise.”

The MISD Homeless Education Project works closely with Macomb County schools to help homeless students meet their basic needs, offering greater school stability and connecting families to community resources. It provides students with backpacks, school supplies, personal hygiene items, winter hats and gloves, warm socks, and gift cards for other essential items. During the 2012-13 school year, the Homeless Education Project assisted 1,034 students that were reported homeless across the county, although Kropf stated that the actual number is much higher.

“We try to provide kids with a more stable school environment while their parents are seeking out a permanent home for them,” she said. “The level of need for people in Macomb County is still huge, so we were so happy when Mike (Fontana) reached out to us again this year.”

Fontana noted that leaders at all three participating churches are excited to see what the 2013 edition of Run the Plank has in store. He invited local runners to come out to Romeo Plank on Saturday to get some exercise and have some fun for a great cause.

“We’re trying to take this event up a notch this year so that it can hopefully help put Macomb Township on the map,” Fontana said. “Are we going to be the next Boston Marathon? No, but I’m confident that people all over Macomb County are going to know who we are and what we stand for.”

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