2020 will go down in history as the year of virtual reality. From how our children learn to how we work and even how we mark milestone occasions, to staying safe in the time of COVID-19 means taking life online.
So, when Thomas Norton and the crew at Hinsdale Rotary Club began thinking about what would have been the group’s 26th annual Hinsdale Rotary Run Charity Classic, the only way for the race to go on would be to hold it virtually.
“Due to the pandemic, the idea of 1,000 runners racing against each other in the streets of Hinsdale has been nixed,” explains Norton, President of the local Rotary Club. “Instead, although the official date will be October 4, we will be going with a completely virtual race.”
It’s a different concept and Norton says it will be a race experience unlike any other. However, the mission and the outcome remain the same—to raise much-needed funds for beneficiaries of Hinsdale Rotary Club this year and into 2021.
How does it work?
“It’s almost exactly the same as an in-person race, but instead of running along the same course with other runners, participants can complete the 10K, 5K, 3K run or walk races anywhere they choose,” he explains. “You can race against on your treadmill, run laps around the neighborhood, or walk your dog on consecutive days to fulfill your distance on the day and time you choose between September 20 and 11 p.m. on October 4.”
Over the last 26 years, the Hinsdale Rotary Run Charity Classic has become a family affair— bringing multiple generations together to run or walk and raise more than $2 million in support of Hinsdale area organizations.
Norton says Rotary and its local initiatives have proven even more critical in this year of COVID-19.
“Hinsdale Rotary has supported the Hinsdale Hospital with $7,500 in needed equipment and PPE, provided a new $3,000 food cooler, and $1,500 for diapers for the food bank for the Westmont Peoples Resource Center to deal with the increase need for food due to unemployment,” he explains. “We also supported the Hinsdale Community Services group with a $2,000 grant to buy in bulk toilet paper for their community. In total, Hinsdale Rotary has donated more than $90,000 in support of COVID-19 relief and recovery, as well as other projects for this recent fiscal year.”
The Rotary concept of “service before self” is something Norton fell in love with when living in Toronto seven years ago.
“I participated in several projects there, including a program that housed homeless Canadians, a huge rotating park carousel for disabled kids, and several African clean water projects,” he says. “When we came home, I joined Hinsdale Rotary and I became President in 2019. Now that mission is a big part of my everyday life.”
While everything about the race will be different this year, Norton says he likes how creative everyone is getting with ways to make the “virtual” concept more fun.
“The best stories we have heard is of families running together on the family treadmill—at different times of the day—and racing each other in the family to complete their 3K, 5K, or 10K distances,” he explains. “We call this Hinsdale’s Family Race because it is open to all ages and abilities. Approximately 50 percent of each year’s runners come from the Hinsdale/Clarendon Hills School District 181. Students, teachers, and their families compete to produce the most registrations for their schools.”
As for Norton and his wife, they have committed to a 10K walk.
“We will be walking from Hinsdale to LaGrange and back via the I-294 pedestrian bridge,” he adds. “We plan on videorecording our adventure and sharing it with the 2020 Virtual Hinsdale Rotary Run Facebook community. Here’s hoping we make it.”
Other options include the following “virtual” races: Hinsdale Bank and Trust 10K Run, Rooney Family 5K Run, MPS Loria Financial Planners 3K Run, The Birches Assisted Living 5K Walk, Napleton Westmont Porsche 3K Walk, and the “Mutt Strut” Norton says he’s proud of the Hinsdale Rotary Club and all that it’s been able to do during this monumental year. Proceeds from the Hinsdale Rotary Run Charity Classic have also allowed the nonprofit to present 2020 U.S. Naval Academy Graduate (and 2016 Hinsdale Central High School graduate) Midshipman First Class Sophie Lekas with $4,300 in scholarship support—enabling her to attend Oxford University next year to further her studies in aerospace engineering.
The charity run also generated $50,000 in contributions to: The Community House of Hinsdale, School District 181 Foundation, The Hinsdale Hospital Foundation, and The Hansen Therapeutic Riding Stables of the Ray Graham Association. Proceeds from the event also provided $12,000 in scholarships to Hinsdale Central High School students; $7,000 for the USO “Christmas Bikes for Military Kids” program; and $15,000 in direct COVID-19 related support to the Amita Adventist Hinsdale Hospital, Peoples Resource Center Food Bank, The LaGrange Plymouth Place Employee Food Pantry, and Hinsdale Community Services.
The Hinsdale Rotary Run Charity Classic will take place virtually on October 4 but there are many ways for runners to fulfill their commitment, starting September 20. For race registration and more details, visit runsignup.com/Race/IL/Hinsdale/RotaryRunCharityClassic.