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August 7, 2013

Event for Special Olympics supports area children

By Mark Vest
C & G Sports Writer

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Event for Special Olympics supports area children
Pictured are volunteers from the Gopher The Gold Run for Special Olympics.

The 9th annual Gopher The Gold Run for Special Olympics took place July 20 at River Bends Park in Shelby Township, and according to co-race director Michael Ward, more money was raised at this year’s event than in any other previous year.

At press time, the exact figure was not known, but Ward said more than $10,000 was raised, with proceeds benefiting the Macomb County Special Olympics. Each year, the money raised helps send kids to a state meet at Central Michigan University.

Ward said there were more than 600 participants at the event — 10k and 5k — which is about 50 and 60 more than last year.

Aside from giving kids the opportunity to go to the state meet, Ward thinks there are also other benefits that come as a result of the Gopher The Gold Run.

“What we do is an opportunity. No. 1, to help the kids out. No. 2, it promotes fitness, both in adults and kids, (because) we get a lot of young families that come out when they’re getting the kids involved,” he said. “I think that’s a huge, positive step — gets (them) away from the computer. The third thing that I see, the sponsors — the local companies.

“This year, as an example, UAW local 400 has taken an active role in the community — they’re helping with every race. That’s great (because) we get the businesses to see what we’re doing and they (want to) get involved. That’s a positive thing, I think, that we get local businesses supporting the events.”

While the primary purpose of the Gopher The Gold Run may be to support a good cause, some interesting stories can come from the event, as well. Aside from a woman who participated in the 5k while pushing a stroller because she didn’t have a babysitter, Ward also relayed one involving Warren Mott graduate and Wayne State cross country assistant coach Matt Fecht, who according to Ward, was at the Olympic trials a year ago, trying out for the marathon.

“He won the 10k, but fell flat on his back running the course,” he said. “He came to the finish line — he looked like he was just mud head to toe. He said, ‘That was an awesome race.’ You finish up, you fall in the mud, you come back (and) what’s your first comment: ‘What an awesome race.’”

If the kind of reactions Ward has received is any indication, good times at Gopher The Gold Run events are not exactly a rarity.

“People know it’s a fun, entertaining morning,” he said. “We have DJ; we have free Biggby Coffee; we have food and drinks for the runners. It’s a giant party atmosphere. We make it very upbeat, very positive. We really make it a fun and very entertaining race.”

While the Gopher The Gold Run was put together to benefit children associated with the Macomb County Special Olympics, they aren’t the only ones who got something out of being a part of the event.

“Last year, we pushed hard,” he said. “We went over $10,000. This year, you could see we were headed way past that. That’s the best feeling I get — to see the people come out. We were able to push it back over that $10,000 mark, which equates to more kids getting to go (to next year’s state meet). That means the world to me.”

Aside from the Gopher The Gold Run for Special Olympics, Ward, Jean Lambert and Joe Burns are also involved with other races in the area that benefit the Special Olympics (and other charities), including the Jingle Bell Run, which is scheduled for Dec. 22.

For more information, contact Michael Ward at (586) 484-5523. To be a part of next year’s Gopher The Gold Run for Special Olympics, visit www.gopherthegoldraces.com or call Ward at the number provided.

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mark Vest at mvest@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1112. Twitter Follow Mark on Twitter.