Children and adults run together for a good cause.

Children and adults run together for a good cause.

Photo provided by Nancy Smith

Fun run raises thousands for local charities

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published December 2, 2019


UTICA — The season of giving is in the air, and you might find yourself looking for ways to give back. Here’s a way to consider giving back each year.

A local fun run hosted by the Utica Education Association Staywell Committee raised thousands of dollars for local charities Oct. 26.

The Howl-o-ween Hustle, in its eighth year, is an event held annually at the Welsh Activity Center at Lake St. Clair Metropark.

On Nov. 12, the event was able to donate $10,000 to local charities, including the Macomb Food Program, 4 Paws 1 Heart and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

“One of our missions is to give back to the community that supports us so well. We’ve been fortunate to have the ability to run a tight budget to be able to donate proceeds to charity,” Michelle Schimelfening, who has been the treasurer for the UEA Staywell Committee for eight years, said in an email.

The Howl-o-ween Hustle includes the options of a 5K/8K and 1-mile runthroughout the local park.

“Lake St. Clair Metropark is a nice place for a race. Flat and fast, the courses definitely show quick times for the runners. The metropark staff is super helpful; they make our job easy. Once again, this year we had some awesome volunteers! People love our event because everyone is so positive and up on race day. From the costumes and costume contest to the goodies after, it’s just a great time,” Schimelfening said.

The run is held to provide a fun, family event to promote physical fitness through running and walking in addition to the option of wearing a Halloween costume. Participants can also win prizes.

“We strive to put on an excellent event that participants will look forward to each year. We have lots of participants in our costume contest, because we have 25 to 30 prizes to give out,” Nancy Smith, a retired UEA teacher and the Howl-o-ween Hustle race director, said in an email.

“I believe you can see by the smiles on everyone’s faces in the photos that it is a very fun event. We are a dog- and stroller-friendly event,” said Smith.

This year, more than 1,040 people registered for the event. That did not include volunteers, sponsors, or friends and family who came with the participants.

Schimelfening said it’s a perfect event for everyone.

“It’s a really fun event for people of all ages and abilities. Halloween is a perfect time of year for running — fall weather, festive colors, all before the drabs of winter set in,” said Schimelfening.

She said that this race has a larger meaning to her.

“For me, this race (and Hoodie Hoo) is a labor of love, really. I love the running community — so supportive and strong. To see a person run their first 5K or their 50th still makes me so happy. Whether participants walk, run, skip, whatever — we welcome everyone. It’s a joy to see the little kids get their medal, so proud! Life can be pretty crappy some days, but being a part of something like this, a fun-filled, exciting race with all sorts of people having fun — running, racing, laughing together — I think people feel inspired.”

Hoodie Hoo is another race event held by the UEA Staywell Committee.

For more information about the race, visit