Author: Merlin Anderson

ABC#133, 11-11-17, for Adopt-A-Family

Great day! Thanks so much to the 41 participants who joined us at Pat & Stacy Sheridan’s home on November 11 to support the Adopt-A-Family program with donations totaling $810. This will provide a great Christmas for our assigned family. Those that submit their donations to their corporate matching gift program will help Adopt-A-Family even more. And thanks to Pat & Stacy for a great job of hosting this event.

At 8:00, Lisa Sparks thanked everyone and introduced Stacie Killian, a 29 year volunteer at Adopt-A-Family. Stacie thanked us and told us more about the program and how it operates. It was great to hear how much is accomplished and how carefully the program is administered. For more information on the Adopt-A-Family program, go to: http://www.childrenshomeandaid.org/holidaygiftdrive-central

Another pre-run activity was the awarding of the “ABC Big Dog” traveling trophy to Peg Stark for her faithful support of the ABC run program over the years. Peg has attended 53 ABC runs, including eight of the nine runs this year. Peg almost always brings yummy food to share and has been an inspiration by getting right back to supporting ABC runs after her knee-replacement surgery a few years ago and showing the benefits of walking/running.

After a group picture, we all headed out for either a 5-mile street/constitution trail adventure led by Merlin Anderson or a Ewing Park trail adventure led by Pat Sheridan. Meg Anderson served as the running photographer while logging a few miles on both grass and pavement.

Back at the Sheridan home, we were treated to a great breakfast of blueberry pancakes prepared by Jay Sparks, coffee cake and breakfast casserole from Meg Anderson, breakfast casserole and fruit from Stacy Sheridan, breakfast apple cinnamon crumb cake from Peg Stark, Casey’s breakfast pizza from Sharri Pelarske, chocolate chip cookies from Kevin Fahling, homemade bread from Laurel Schumacher, cupcakes from Raymond Sevier, chocolate milk from Ted O’Neil, bananas from Sandra Sharp, and much more! I didn’t get the names of all the food providers but it was all so good!

We have completed thirteen years of ABC runs and had another really great year. Total contributions for the nine ABC runs in 2017 totaled $12,192. The total for all 133 ABC runs is $122,193. We have supported 28 charities. The top 10 charities are:
$18,014 – St. Jude (15 runs)
$17,651 – The Baby Fold (14 runs)
$12,582 – Timber Pointe Easter Seal Camp (8 runs)
$9,864 – The Seedling Theatre (8 runs)
$8,472 – Sugar Grove Nature Center (12 runs)
$7,918 – McLean County Child Protection Network (10 runs)
$7,259 – Heartland Head Start (10 runs)
$6,830 – Adopt-A-Family (8 runs)
$6,427 – Scott Early Learning Center (9 runs)
$5,223 – Boys & Girls Club (9 runs)

Thanks so much for all your support!

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ABC#132, 10-1-17, for Heartland Head Start

Great event at Sugar Grove Nature Center on October 1: 68 participants donated an awesome total of $1,020 to Heartland Head Start which will be used for playground equipment! Thanks so much to everyone who attended, and to those who sent donations, for all your support.


Thanks much to Angela Funk (Director, Sugar Grove Nature Center) for getting things ready for us even though she could not join us Sunday morning. Thanks also to Sharon Cochran (member of Friends of Heartland Head Start) for helping host and coordinating Heartland Head Start.


We had a great mix of ABC run veterans and newbies (15 new ABC participants). Thanks for joining us. To encourage participation, we again spread the word of a competition among fitness groups (LRC excluded) as to who would have the most participants. The “Be Strong” group won again by having 14 participants, beating Gold’s Gym, Often Running racing team, Fleet Feet runners, and others. The Be Strong group did that without their leader, Drew Whitted, who was away at the World Powerlifting Championships where he set a world record deadlift of 662 pounds. Wow!
Another special event this year included a book signing by Randy Sharer of the Pantagraph who recently wrote a book about Craig Virgin, a Lebanon Illinois native, who won the world cross-country championship twice.
The menu was awesome as usual with casseroles, coffee cake, bagels & cream cheese, fruit, cookies, snack items, coffee, and so much more. With so many food contributions, I was unable to keep track of who brought what. Thanks to DoubleTree hotels for giving us a batch of cookies.


The funds raised by all ten runs for Heartland add up to a nice total of $7,259. Thanks a million to every participant for your fellowship, sharing food, and generous financial support. Your support helps Heartland Head Start achieve their mission to “enhance the lives of children and families by providing a comprehensive child and family development program for 3-5 year old children and their families who meet the federal guidelines in McLean and Livingston counties in Central Illinois.” For more on Heartland Head Start, visit http://heartlandheadstart.org/

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ABC Run#131, for Seedling Theatre, 8-12-17

ABC Run #131 on August 12 was a success with $819 donated to Seedling Theatre thanks to the generosity of everyone involved. Thanks much to:
(a) Laurel & Larry Schumacher for being awesome hosts.
(b) 34 attendees (and 8 other contributors) that donated a total of $819.
(c) Often Running, for donating some cool items for our drawing.
(d) Sharrie Pelarske & Laurel Schumacher, for donating harvest baskets for our drawing.
(e) Seedling Theatre for donating tickets to an upcoming performance for our drawing.
(h) everyone who brought food! Too many to recall but Megan Ebert, Missy Adams, and Mary Pinkham won harvest baskets that were awarded at random to food contributors.


Seedling Theatre is a wonderful theatrical program for children & young adults & adults with disabilities, as well as their able bodied peers. Each year Donna Anhalt, the Seedling Theatre director, sends a heart-felt note in appreciation for all our support. This one says it best: “I don’t know quite how to say thank you in the most appropriate manner, so please just know from the bottom of my heart how grateful the entire Seedling Families are for what you are doing for their children. I listen to their stories quite frequently about how Seedling has affected their lives. It is always heartwarming, occasionally teary-eyed and sometimes even funny. Believe me, these families are overwhelmed by the generosity of the donors for Seedling Theatre and sincerely appreciate your efforts. So, from the depths of my heart…..thank you”.

ABC runs just keep rolling along. After 131 ABC runs, all of us who support ABC runs have collectively raised $120,363 to help 27 different local children’s charities. Eight of these ABC runs have generated a total of $9,864 for Seedling Theatre. Thanks a million to everyone who has supported these extremely worthwhile causes.

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ABC Run#130, 7-16-17, for St. Jude

ABC Run #130 was hosted by Meryl Brown on July 16. A nice total of $1,647 was donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital thanks to the generosity of 26 attendees plus 7 runners that could not make it but donated anyway. The donations will help members of the “We got the runs” team meet or exceed their fund-raising goals. More importantly, the donations help kids by helping St. Jude provide free lifesaving care and also helping St. Jude continue its groundbreaking research. The kids can benefit even more when employees or retirees of a company such as State Farm submit their donations for the company match.

The venue was great: nice location, home, backyard, and pool. The weather was good for running and for using the pool.
The course was a relatively ordinary adventure heading West on the Constitution Trail to Vernon Avenue (2.5 miles from Meryl’s home). The menu was really great as usual. Thanks to Meryl Brown for hosting and all who provided additional food.
We’ve held a total of 15 ABC runs for St. Jude and the total of those runs is $18,014. The total for all 130 ABC runs is now $119,544. Thanks so much to everyone for all of your support!


ABC Run #131, to benefit The Seedling Theater will be held at the Schumacher home on Saturday, August 12 at 7:30 a.m. (doors open at 7:00).

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ABC#129/Multi-Sport Day

ABC#129/Multi-Sport Day on May 20 was a great success with $2,235 donated to Timber Pointe Outdoor Center! Although the weather was terrible and attendance was down to 40 compared with 108 last year, we lucked out by having some larger than usual donations and some donations from those that could not attend. Thanks so much to everyone who attended, donated, organized, brought food, and enhanced the day with your enthusiasm and friendship.

The stormy weather caused a number of adjustments, including two different start times for the run (note the two group photos). The first group left before 8:00, hoping to avoid getting too wet (it was already starting to rain when we took off). The weather forecast was for thunderstorms but we were lucky. Three of us (Gary Savage, Tamara Nelsen, and Merlin Anderson) ran the long course and experienced nothing worse than wind and rain and sleet except for one big clap of thunder near the end that made us hurry to the protection of Sterns Lodge.

When we entered Stearns Lodge, we noticed the small crowd appeared to be in party mode. I know Meg’s coffee cake is good but maybe not that good! Turns out, a contributing factor was that our organizers, Kevin McCarthy and John Pratt, tapped the keg after they made the decision to cancel the swim and the bike ride. Cool – craft beer for brunch! They also made the decision to hold the cookout as scheduled because the weather was clearing by late morning.

So what did Kevin McCarthy say about the change in plans (and tapping the keg early)?

Thank You! This was incredible. In spite of threatening weather, people came to the Multi-Sport Training Day to enjoy friendship and community and to support children with developmental needs. Friends from different clubs, with different affiliations were all in one place to enjoy being together and supporting our community. A truly great day!

Through the wonderful generosity of those that joined us and those that sent in contributions, we raised over $2,200 for Timber Pointe Outdoor Center and Easter Seals. And since we started this fun idea, Multi-Sport Day & ABC Runs have generated over $12,000 dollars for Timber Pointe and Easter Seals.

There are many to thank. The principal organizers are Merlin & Meg Anderson (ABC runs & Lake Run Club), John Pratt (Masters Swimming & Lake Run Club), Colleen Klein (Tri-Shark Triathlon), and yours truly Kevin McCarthy (Tri-Shark Triathlon Club and Lake Run Club). But this is truly a team event with many helpers needed to set up the swim course, set out beverages on the run course, lead bike routes, lead trail runs, man the grill, shop for food, order and deliver supplies, line up lifeguards, supply swim caps, ensure participant safety, etc. We may have canceled the swim and the ride but volunteers were still needed to be ready. Thank you!”

ABC Run #130 to benefit St. Jude will be on Sunday, July 16 at Meryl Brown’s home.

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ABC#128, 4-15-17, for The Baby Fold

April 15 had many happy returns. Great weather, great participants, and an awesome $3,078 donated to The Baby Fold by the 94 participants and three others that could not attend. Both the total attendance and the amount contributed are records for The Baby Fold ABC Runs.

Aimee Beam, VP of Development and PR at The Baby Fold, was a great host, greeting us as we arrived and making sure we had water and sports drink. Before we ran, we awarded a new traveling award for “ABC Top Team” based on participation.  This little award, a baton, spurred friendly competition to increase attendance. Be Strong, with 15 participants, won by edging out strong competition from Gold’s Gym, Often Running Racing Team. Fleet Feet, and 261 Fearless. After the group photos, we headed out for our run. Some did the 3-mile route up the trail to near I55 and back, some went to the end of the trail and back for a total of 7 miles, and some chose to go farther. Erin Furimsky was the most ambitious by covering 20 miles, including 11 miles before the official start time.

The post-run pot luck feast was great as usual, including coffee cake and a casserole from Meg Anderson, banana bars from Cindy Friedrich, cookies and cuties from Annette Lobdell, and more. The large turnout (44 more participants than last year) was a surprise, so Sharri Pelarske cut her run short to make a quick grocery run for bagels, cream cheese, and bananas. Thanks so much to everyone for making this event great fun and another huge success!

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ABC Run#127, 3-18-17

ABC Run #127 was Saturday, 3/19/17 at Robyn Walter’s home. Great event with a total of $825 donated by 42 runners that attended plus two runners that mailed a check. Thanks so much for supporting the McLean County Child Protection Network! If you are a State Farmer and you donated $25 or more, please submit your donation to State Farms matching program.

It was a good day to run – 37 degrees, cloudy, breezy. Runners chose between a 3-mile and a 6-mile route. Those that ran the six mile route got a refreshment stop (sports drink, water) at 3 miles. Kevin Fahling and Erin Furimsky turned this event into a 15 miler by clocking 9 miles before our official start, then were kind enough to slow down and let me run with them.  Back at the house, Robyn Walter and Gregg Chadwick were great hosts, organizing the food buffet and mixing mimosas. Once again, this was one of the most fantastic post-run food fests! Thanks much to the following runners for the great food:

Robyn Walter – spiced buckwheat pancakes, chocolate pumpkin muffins, mimosas
Gregg Chadwick – bubble & squeak (you’ll have to google this)
Meg Anderson – coffee cake, sausage/egg/hash brown casserole
Stacy Sheridan – egg/veggie casserole Dennis Roesch – bananas
Bruce Sutter – bagels & cream cheese
Katy MacMann – hulk muffins
Tammy Knippenberg – almond chocolate milk
Judy Bauman – fruit
Lisa Sparks – Watergate cake Kevin Fahling – chocolate chip cookies

Great event! Where else can you get such a great brunch with a great bunch of people and know that 100% of your donations go to a great cause?  We have now completed ten runs for the McLean County Child Protection Network (six of them hosted by Robyn & Gregg) with total donations of $7,918. The total for all 127 ABC Runs is $112,564. Thanks again for the food, donations, and friendship.

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ABC#126, 2-5-17, for Scott Early Learning Center

Another awesome day! This year, 54 participants gathered at Children’s Home + Aid to run and generously support children in our community with donations that totaled $900. Children’s Home + Aid will benefit even more when some of the State Farm employees/retirees apply under State Farm’s matching grant program. If you contributed by check (of $25 or more), please be sure to apply. This might make a couple hundred dollars difference!
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Laurel Schumacher whistled to get our attention so I could explain the course and then turn the duties over to our gracious host, Lisa Sparks, who thanked us, explained the Super Bowl quiz, recognized Kristen Dixon for her upcoming birthday, and introduced Laura Cordero, Development Assistant at Children’s Home + Aid. Laura thanked us and let us know how important our contributions are, especially this year when they are opening up more classroom space. Our contributions go directly to Scott Early Learning Center which provides affordable child care where traditional daycare may not be within reach.
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We gathered back at the Learning Center for post-run treats including birthday cake for Kristen.  There were many contributions but I was so busy taking photos that I don’t know who brought what except for the coffee cake and birthday cake from Meg Anderson, sausage/egg casserole from Stacy Sheridan, oatmeal-almond cookies from Laurel Schumacher, fruit from Lisa Sparks, and chocolate chip cookies from Kevin Fahling. Thanks so much to everyone! The final order of business for the day was the awarding of the “Super Bowl Party Pack” to Kristen Dixon and her dad, Scott Dixon, the winner of the Super Bowl trivia contest. Thanks to Meg Anderson for putting the party pack together.
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This is the ninth year we have conducted an ABC run for the Scott Early Learning Center.  This year’s $900 brings the nine-year total to $6,427.  The total for all 126 ABC runs is $111,739.  Thanks so much to everyone who has provided financial support, food, and encouragement.

ABC Run #127, for McLean County Child Protection Network, will be held Saturday, March 18 at the home of Robyn Walter and Greg Chadwick.

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ABC#125, 1-17-17, for Sugar Grove Nature Center

Another fun and successful ABC Run! A total of $838 was donated to Sugar Grove Nature Center, including $200 donated by the SHTRs (Shady Hollow Trail Runners), and donations from three other runners who could not make it to the ABC run after the date and location was changed from Sunday the 15th at Sugar Grove to Tuesday night at the Anderson home. The change was made because the driveway and parking lot at Sugar Grove Nature Center was a sheet of ice. In spite of the change, 37 participants showed up Tuesday night. Good turnout!

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The donations will be used toward the purchase of a new microscope camera with upgraded features such as a build-in-measuring element and a wireless connection.  Through a grant several years ago, Sugar Grove Nature Center purchased a camera that connects to a microscope, and then projects the image onto a television screen.  It has been enormously popular, and a program has even been built around its use. Everyone in class is able to see the subject without having to take turns at a microscope, and younger kids that don’t yet have the ability to use a microscope can still examine creatures, plants, and more up close. The moment they realize they are not watching a television show or movie, but an actual object or animal in real time is magical. During a winter class, we placed snow under the microscope and just watched it melt. It was mesmerizing for both kids and adults. Unfortunately, its age is showing.  While it does still project images, we are no longer able to take photographs or videos through the camera, and the power port has become loose, creating an unreliable connection.

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The evening’s running adventure was our neighborhood 4-mile course. I hope everyone was able to join with one of the regular Tuesday night runners to stay on course as we twisted and turned our way through the neighborhood streets.
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After the run, we were treated to a culinary adventure! Thanks to Meg Anderson for all her preparation, including the vegetable soup and the veggie tray. Thanks also to Randy Barnett (and Noodles & Company) for the chicken noodle soup, Sharri Pelarske for the chili, Robyn Walter for the spicy tomato basil soup, Bill Hahm for the apple crisp & ice cream, Laurel Schumacher for the chocolate chip cranberry cake, Jill Usiak for the fruit salad, Angela Funk for the Gatorade and the great variety of snack items, and Bryan Van Hook for the special root beer. Thanks so much to everyone that attended, contributed, brought food, and made it such a fun event!

The next ABC run (#126) will be Sunday, February 5 at/for Scott Early Learning Center.

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50-State Tandem Bike Challenge

For this, the 12th year of bets, I proposed getting a rider from each of twelve countries but Bob Brandt vetoed the idea because he thought that might be too easy. Instead, the challenge was to get a rider from each of the 50 states. To represent a state, riders had to (a) have been born in that state, (b) have lived there 12 years, or (c) currently live there. This had to be the toughest challenge yet! To find riders, I turned to the magic of social media and the concept of “six degrees of separation”.
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To make a long story short, Facebook friends got the job done, and I don’t think we even had to use all “six degrees of separation” (maybe just three degrees, a friend of a friend of a friend). We got all 50 states and even added Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and Dominican Republic for extra credit. We celebrated with a party where Meg made pulled pork, Bob brought a couple of six-packs, and Gregg Chadwick (Mr. Mass.) gave me a 50-state quarter collection to commemorate the achievement.

What a year: 106 rides (49 rides with Meg), 60 different riders (35 new riders), 1,235 tandem miles (545 with Meg). Four riders rode more than once (Meg, Rebecca Payne, Kelly Bowers, LeAnn Poor). Five states had two riders (Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, Wyoming). The farthest I had to travel was to Wyoming to ride with Donna Creditor (Ms. Delaware), Tanya Connors (Ms. New Hampshire), and Joseph Connors (Mr. Wyoming). The farthest anyone came here to ride was from China (Robin Schmidt teaches in China and was in the area visiting Anne Schmidt and other family). It was a wonderful odyssey. Thanks so much to everyone for all the great rides, the referrals, and great memories! Here are the riders, listed by state.

Alabama: Tom Lauritson
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laska: Tyler Lotz
Arizona: Dianna Yoder Doblosky
Arkansas: Jenna Ramey
California: Kelly Bowers
Colorado: Daniel Mestas
Connecticut: Chris Allison
Delaware: Donna Creditor
Florida: Gene Harding, Tanya Gianotti
Georgia: James Auten
Hawaii: Rualani Simpson
Idaho: Tina Techmanski
Illinois: Stacy Sheridan, Emily Gomalchak, Cojo Aforiwa
Indiana: Kevin McCarthy
Iowa: Keith Bowers, Missi Adams
Kansas: Christiana Reader
Kentucky: Mike Eckhoff
Louisiana: Carl Blomquist
Maine: Brigette Van Hook
Maryland: Deb McNamara
Massachusetts: Gregg Chadwick
Michigan: Paul Betts
Minnesota: Meg Anderson
Mississippi: Sarah Anne Cary Welsh
Missouri: Darla Schwertfeger
Montana: John Quindry
Nebraska: Aimee Dzieken
Nevada: Rob McNamara
New Hampshire: Tanya Connors
New Jersey: Erin Furimsky
New Mexico: Nicole Thornton
New York: Nancy Falk
North Carolina: Joy Williams
North Dakota: Chris Hamilton
Ohio: Deb Schumann, Becky Roesner
Oklahoma: Cheryl Dwyer
Oregon: Larry Schumacher
Pennsylvania: Susan DeGennaro
Rhode Island: Michelle White
South Carolina: Robin Schmidt
South Dakota: Diane Risius
Tennessee: Tony Brewster
Texas: Adriane Powell
Utah: LeAnn Poor
Vermont: Bridget McLeese Frerichs
Virginia: Rob Junkins
Washington: Rebecca Payne
West Virginia: Gisette Brewster
Wisconsin: Seanan Alyasiri
Wyoming: Joseph Connors, Tanya Anderson
Washington D.C.: Meta Mickens-Baker
Puerto Rico: Maura Toro-Morn
Dominican Republic: Melin de la Cruz

The 2017 challenge is the “International Triskaidekaphobia Tandem Challenge”. Triskaidekaphobia means “fear of the number 13”. This is the 13th annual bet and Bob has made it so difficult that I’m afraid of failure. Keeping with the “13” theme, I have to get a rider from 26 countries (13 times 2). Bob wouldn’t agree to 13 countries, so we doubled it. A rider can represent a country if (a) born in that country, (b) lived there for 13 years, or (c) currently lives there. Each ride has to be at least 13 kilometers. This is going to be great!

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