A love of running is shared by many Kingston, New York, residents. The city has a tight-knit running community with many running clubs. So when one traditional community event took a hiatus, the Kiwanis Club of Kingston jumped in to revitalize and transform it.
For many years, those runners had the opportunity to run alongside elite athletes from Kenya and Ethiopia at an annual event called the Kingston Classic. In 1981, the classic began as a 10-kilometer race aimed at helping runners get in shape for the Boston Marathon. To appeal to competitors not quite prepared for a marathon, a 2.1-mile run/walk was added in 2009.
But when the classic disappeared in 2010, one local Kiwanian fought to ensure a traditional rallying event for the community wasn’t permanently lost. Having co-founded two other races, Greg Riley approached his fellow Kiwanians—many of whom had previously volunteered at the race—for support to run this one.
“Kingston Kiwanis for years had been searching for just the right opportunity to align itself with a worthy cause that would serve to not only allow us to share who we are but more importantly, what we do in the community,” he reflects.
The club’s agreement to associate itself with the race meant changing some traditions.
“We met with all the previous sponsors and ensured them that we would not be awarding prize monies (to the fastest runners),” Riley says. “All of the dollars raised would stay here in the community to fund needed youth and senior programs.”
To further emphasize the new community focus, runners were asked to vote for the most spirited group in the “Fan Zone” where local groups cheered on competitors. If any of the top three vote getters were nonprofits, they received prize money; if they were a business, the money was given to a charity of their choice. The club also reduced the entry fees to ensure more people could be involved.
“We received very positive feedback relative to the changes we instituted and the organizational structure put in place to make future races even easier to oversee,” Riley states. He isn’t boasting. A local newspaper, the Daily Freeman, named the organizers—nearly all of whom, from the public relations director to the treasurer, are Kiwanians—“Sportspeople of the Year” for 2012.
In the two years the Kiwanis club has been in charge, US$45,000 has been raised to support organizations and projects ranging from its Service Leadership Programs, to juvenile diabetes research, the Children’s Home of Kingston and youth activities like basketball and ballet. But this isn’t the only way the Kiwanis club’s mission has been furthered. At least 10 members have joined Kiwanis specifically to be involved with the race. —Courtney Meyer