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Race for a Reason

ericshainock's picture

Before I lived in Athens, I thought it was just a college town that would be fun to visit for a few weekends…. but it became so much more than that. It became a home away from home and my graduate program became a group of people who became my second family. We were told in December of our first year that we would help organize and execute an event named Race for a Reason.This event holds a special place in my heart because it found my passion for fundraising and community relations. This year, the event will take place on April 23rd, 2016.

Race for a Reason is the largest charity event in Southeast Ohio. It’s a day-long event that consists of a Mud Run, Triathlon, 5K Run, 3K Run/Walk, and a remote participation option. The event in its current format has existed for over five years and it came out of an idea from a Sports Administration alumnus. He challenged the current students to do more for charity and give back to the community. The alumnus had a friend whose family was affected by Cystic Fibrosis (CF), which is how our program became involved in fundraising for CF. Race for a Reason serves a dual purpose: it gives current students more experience in the non-profit world and it allows them to plan and operate a large scale event. In 2013, a local family in Athens reached out to our program and asked that we help fundraise for her team as well because of Lilly, her daughter who also has Cystic Fibrosis.

In 2015, the event raised over $117,000 dollars (sponsorship revenue, registrations, donations) with more than 100 student organizations involved in the fundraising and participation of the event. In total there were 1328 participants including walk-ups.

The sports administration students raised over $23,000 for Cystic Fibrosis and other charities. A portion of the overall total went directly to fund research for a cure for Cystic Fibrosis, so it definitely hit home for all of the students in Athens. Each student organization could pick its reason for fundraising- its own organization or a worthy cause or non-profit that could use the money. As a result, all of the $117,000 went directly to helping different organizations across the country. Think about that for a second: a six-year-old event run by students is able to use endurance sports as a way to positively impact dozens of organizations. This is a perfect example of how sports can be a tool to make a difference. It doesn’t matter how old or experienced a person is- he or she can truly make that difference.

I spoke with Eric Mayer, Director of Race for a Reason for the 2016 year. Eric has worked on Race for a Reason for all three years he's been in Athens and has been instrumental in growing the event financially, as well as increasing the number of participants and sponsors. He said that the biggest opportunity with an eye towards the future is with the undergraduate population. At a university of 22,000 students, there is a huge opportunity to have a greater student involvement. With just over 1,000 participants, there can be huge growth both from the current students and surrounding citizens of Athens. In addition, Race for a Reason added a 3K Run/Walk in 2014 as a partnership with AMVETS. In the future, there may be opportunities for additional partners with other facets of the event. Eric said it best- “It was special to see our fundraising total eclipse $100,000 and make a national impact, in part because of the personal involvement of our committee and the students on campus.” Being the outgoing and caring person he is, Eric has parlayed his time in Athens into a job as a Gameday Host with the Cleveland Indians.

As I mentioned earlier, this event staff turns over its leadership each year, yet it continues to grow in total fundraising dollars and participants. With an idea and a dedicated group of people to see the execution of an event, we can come together to bring about positive change. To create a seamless transition from year to year, Race for a Reason created a full time graduate assistant position who's job is to work year round on the program. The program does a good job by using recap books for each event to learn from past successes and mistakes. In addition, with the hope that undergraduate students become more involved in the event, it might make sense to include undergrad representatives to the leadership of Race for a Reason.

Eric Shainock works for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital as an Account Representative in the Strategic Partnerships division after previously working at Intersport, a sports marketing agency. He is a 2014 graduate of the Ohio University Sports Administration Graduate Program. Feel free to reach out via email: eric.shainock@gmail.com or on Twitter: @ericshainock.

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