Tag Archives: MerlinAnderson

ABC Run #122, for Heartland Head Start

Super event at Sugar Grove Nature Center: 71 participants donated an awesome total of $1,590 to Heartland Head Start which will be used to upgrade their playgrounds! In our ninth run for Heartland, we easily topped the 2006 record of $698. Thanks so much to everyone for your support and a special thanks to Shady Hollow Trail Runners for the $500 donated in return for volunteering at their Evergreen Lake Ultra trail race. Several ABC runners and friends of Heartland Head Start spent a fun 5 hours volunteering. Volunteers included Deb Schumann, Brett Leifheit, Sharon Cochran, David & Darlene Weber, Meg & Merlin Anderson.

Thanks so much to our hosts: Angela Funk (Director, Sugar Grove Nature Center), Whitney Chesher  (Outreach & Communications Specialist at Heartland Head Start), Sharon Cochran (member of Friends of Heartland Head Start), and David & Darlene Weber (members of Friends of Heartland Head Start).


We had a great mix of ABC run veterans and newbies. Among the newbies was a group from the Be Strong gym. Thanks, Drew Witted, for encouraging your group to join us. It was an inspiration to see Matt DeMatteo power his conventional wheelchair to a PR distance of 4 miles.

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The menu was awesome as usual with casseroles, coffee cake, bagels & cream cheese, fruit, cookies, snack items, coffee, orange juice, apple juice and so much more. With so many food contributions, I was unable to keep track of who brought what. Thanks to DoubleTree hotels for adding the batch of cookies.

The funds raised by all nine runs for Heartland add up to a heartwarming total of $6,239.   Thanks so much 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 #106, for C.O.T.A., 3-3-2015

It was a wonderful evening as 45 participants generously donated a nice sum of $770 to the Children’s Organ Transplant Association in support of the Spencer family from Downs.  It was heartwarming to see so many people come together to help a family that has faced the challenge of having sons, Austin and Mason, obtain bone marrow transplants.   Austin is back in school but Mason is very ill and has not left Cincinnati children’s hospital since August 1st.

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To kick off the festivities, Angie Stafford, a friend of the Spencer family, sincerely thanked us for our effort.  Next on the agenda was a brisk four mile run or walk, followed by a smorgasbord of Lasagna.  In order to fit in this special ABC run request, we combined it with our traditional “last Tuesday night winter run at the Anderson’s” lasagna feast.  The lasagna choices were Beef lasagna, beef/sausage lasagna, black bean lasagna, spinach/mushroom lasagna (Meg Anderson); Chicken lasagna (Pat Rink); Eggplant lasagna (Robyn Walter). Sides included pistachio salad (Rich Beal), lettuce salad & veggie tray (Meg), fruit salad (Wendy Anderson), bread (Angie Stafford), crackers & cheese (Laurel Schumacher) and more! Deserts included cookies (Kevin Fahling, Bill Hahm, Jennifer Funk), cake (Rich Beal), brownies (Stacie Sheridan), and more! Sorry, so much was happening that I didn’t catch who all brought food and drink. Suffice it to say that nearly everyone brought something and there were plenty of leftovers.

We are now three runs into our 11th year of ABC runs. The total giving for all 106 ABC runs is $80,615. Thanks so much to everyone who has provided financial support, food, and encouragement.

The next ABC run will be Saturday, March 28, 8:30 a.m. at Robyn Walter’s home to support the McLean County Child Protection Network.

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ABC Run #105, for Children’s Home & Aid

The forecast was dismal but we lucked out with just the right amount of snow to make it a winter wonderland for the 34 participants that gathered at Children’s Home + Aid to support the children in our community to the tune of $800, a Children’s Home & Aid ABC run PR!


Aleisha Guerrettaz, the Regional Development and Volunteer Associate at Children’s Home + Aid, kicked off our morning with words of thanks for coming out and supporting children in need.  Our contributions went directly to the Scott Early Learning Center which provides affordable child care where traditional daycare may not be within reach.IMG_7306

For the run, some ran long (Dan Anderson likely ran the farthest) but most of us enjoyed the four mile course to the triangle and back.  On the way back, there was evidence that several angels had left their mark.  There were also reports of snowballs whizzing past Robyn Walter.  No one has claimed responsibility for such evil doing but no harm was done as the not-so-evil runner intentionally missed Robyn.  Bill Hahm was, however, assaulted by a delinquent geezer who shook the snow off an overhanging branch, prompting Bill to retaliate by calling the geezer a “fossil” (in line with the discussion concerning geology and ceramics).

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We gathered back at the Learning Center gym for our usual post-run treats and a special occasion — celebrating Brigette VanHook’s birthday.  There were numerous contributions including four casseroles (thanks to Lisa Sparks, Stacy Sheridan, Laurel Schumacher, and Robyn Walter).  We also had coffee cake and banana muffins from Meg Anderson, chocolate chip cookies from  Kevin Fahling and more!

This is the seventh year we have conducted an ABC run for the Scott Early Learning Center.  This year’s $800 brings the seven-year total to $4,318.  The total for all 105 ABC runs is now $79,845.  Thanks so much to everyone who has provided financial support, food, and encouragement.

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ABC Run #103, for Adopt-A-Family

Woot Woot!  A generous group of 46 participants came to the Sparks’ home on December 6 to support the Adopt-A-Family program.  A total of $1,100 was donated by those participants and a few others that could not attend but donated anyway.  Your donations are enough to provide a great Christmas for two families – our assigned family plus an additional family!  Thanks so much to everyone! If you would like a receipt for your donation, go to the Children’s Home and Aid websites:  www.childrenshomeandaid.org/giftdrive2014

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After Lisa Sparks thanked everyone, Lisa conducted a brief and lively “Ugliest Sweater” competition.  Rich Beal won and was awarded the fabulous prize of a bag of Garrett’s Chicago Popcorn.  Then, after the traditional group photo, the runners headed to the Constitution Trail.  We were all treated to a great breakfast highlighted by multiple varieties of pancakes prepared by Jay SparksMissi Adams donated a special multi-grain pancake mix so we could compare regular and blueberry pancakes made with either regular or multi-grain mix.  Rounding out the fare was coffee cake from Meg Anderson, delicious breakfast casserole from Stacy Sheridan, eggnog and fruit from Vince Donohue, hard-boiled eggs from Laurel Schumacher, cookies from Kevin Fahling, bananas from Bruce Sutter, donut holes from Suzanne Rogers, coffee cake from  Mary Pinkham, clementines from Robyn Walter, and more!






About Adopt-A-Family:
Our assigned families are eligible for assistance because of their involvement in the Healthy Start program.  Healthy Start, a Healthy Families Illinois program is a highly effective program in the deterrence of child abuse and neglect.  Through positive, persistent, outreach services and in-home visits, at-risk parents learn about child development, nutrition, parenting and wellness.  Healthy Start reaches out to young, first-time mothers and fathers who are at risk for child abuse or neglect. The Public Health Department, doctors, schools and other community agencies refer parents to Healthy Start during pregnancy or within two weeks after birth.

Adopt-a-Family was started in 1980 by two volunteers.  Their goal was to provide Christmas for a few needy families and several foster children.  The program was created as an effort to meet the social, emotional, and financial needs of low-income, multi-dysfunctional families.  The program grew and became a program of The Children’s Foundation.  For over 30 years, The Children’s Foundation Adopt-a-Family Program has provided NEW items for local needy children and families at Christmas.  It is a very comprehensive program as it provides for the household needs of the family as well as those of the individual.

Only families and individuals who are receiving services from The Children’s Foundation are eligible for Adopt-a-Family.   Eligibility for individuals and families is determined by their Family Support Worker.  This is not an open enrollment program.  Recipients are required to sign a contract stating that they will not pursue getting gifts from other Christmas charity programs.

Ten Years of ABC Runs:
We have just completed ten years of ABC runs and set a record this year.  Total contributions for the 11 ABC runs in 2014 totaled $14,470, beating the 2008 total of $11,989.  The total for all 103 ABC runs is now $78,360.   We have supported 27 different charities.  Here are the top 10 charities:
$12,766 – St. Jude (twelve runs)
$10,133 – The Baby Fold (eleven runs)
$5,804 – Sugar Grove Nature Center (nine runs)
$5,677 – The Seedling Theatre (five runs)
$4,267 – Timber Pointe Easter Seal Camp (five runs)
$4,139 – Heartland Head Start (seven runs)
$4,129 – El Paso/Gridley Jr. High Cross Country program (seven runs)
$3,881 – Adopt-A-Family (five runs)
$3,815 – Boys & Girls Club (seven runs)
$3,685 – Austin Carter benefit

Thanks so much for all your support!

ABC Run #104 will be 9:00 a.m., Saturday, January 10 at/for the Sugar Grove Nature Center.

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ABC Run #102, 4 Paws for Cause

OMG! 84 participants, including 10 members of the Beaty family (mom, dad, 6 kids, grampa & gramma). Total amount raised = $1,125. Thanks to all for supporting the Andrew and Karen Beaty family in their quest to raise $14,000 to obtain a service dog from “4 Paws for Cause” for five special needs children they adopted. The Beaty family had already raised about $2,300, so this was a really great boost. I saw in their eyes and heard in their parting words how impressed and touched they were that you all did this for them. Thanks also to all that brought food and drink. It was a great meal and super fun time!



We kicked off the Tuesday night running season at the Anderson home with the largest group ever to run the four mile neighborhood course. Back at the house, most runners bypassed the sports drink and went straight to the fantastic fare of food & beverages.  Thanks so much to the providers of the main course:  (1) Randy Barnett and Noodles & Company for the chicken noodle soup, (2) Sharri Pelarske for the chili, and (3) Meg Anderson for the vegetable soup.  Thanks, Debbie Walmsley, for giving us a roaster oven. Thanks, Tanya Gianotti, for donating goodies from the Sugar Mama bakery in downtown Normal.  Thanks also to everyone else that brought food & beverages to supplement the main course.  There were so many that I didn’t catch them all.  In fact, we were so busy that we didn’t take any photos other than the starting line photos.

ABC Run #103 will be held at 8:30 a.m., Saturday, December 6 at the Sparks’ home, to benefit the Adopt A Family program. We hope to see you then.

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ABC Run #101, for Heartland Head Start

It was a great morning for the 50 participants that showed up at the Sugar Grove Nature Center on October 5 and generously supported Heartland Head Start with total contributions of $700.



Thanks so much to our hosts: Angela Funk (Director Sugar Grove Nature Center), Odemaris Mancilla-Sibaja (Dual Language Specialist at Heartland Head Start), Sharon Cochran (member of Friends of Heartland Head Start), and David & Darlene Weber (members of Friends of Heartland Head Start). The usually awesome menu included french toast casserole (from Robyn Walter), coffee cake (Meg Anderson), banana bread (Sharon Cochran), bread (Darlene Weber) chocolate chip cookies (Kevin Fahling), assorted treats (Angela Funk), and so much more (my apologies to those that I missed).


This is the seventh ABC run for Heartland Head Start. The funds raised by all seven runs add up to a tidy sum of $4,129. Thanks a million to every participant for your fellowship, sharing food, and generous financial support.  Odemaris sent me a nice email including a “thank you” to pass along.  Odemaris wrote “In our program we have families from all over the world, with about 5 different languages. Thanks to your generosity we will continue to support all of our different literacy events. These events include a free book for all of our families. Your donation will help us buy books in many languages that will increase literacy”.

It may have been ABC Run #101, but one person (guess who?) was celebrating his 100th ABC run.  Some lame excuse about missing #85 due to his granddaughter’s college graduation.  Meg will likely celebrate her 100th in April.

The next ABC Run, for Adopt-A-Family, will be held Saturday morning, December 6, at the home of Lisa Sparks in Bloomington.

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ABC Run #100, for Seedling Theatre

ABC Run #100 was hosted by Laurel and Larry Schumacher on August 10.  An astounding $3,021 was donated to Seedling Theatre, thanks to the generosity of 106 attendees and several others that sent donations.  Donators were given the option to receive a commemorative “100 Adventures Benefiting Children” shirt. Thanks so much to Often Running for donating the shirts and to Bloomington Primary Care for donating the printing.  Thanks also to Joe Anhalt for designing the ABC logo.  Thanks a million to everyone that donated and to everyone that brought all the delicious food!

Donna Anhalt, the Seedling Theatre director, was so grateful for everyone’s support that she wrote “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”.

That’s the “in a nutshell” report.  What follows is a more philosophical rambling account of the events (my apologies to Garrison Keillor for ineptly jacking his style).

It’s been a quiet week at Lake Tipton.  Traffic on the trail was light all week but promised to pick up to fever pitch on Sunday morning, August 10, when it was hoped that more than 100 runners and walkers would participate in the 100th Adventure Benefiting Children.  ABC runs are social runs coupled with pot-luck food and a free-will offering in which 100% of the proceeds go to a local children’s charity.  ABC runs, though different, are just the type of thing you might expect from the generous folk in the heartland.

Anytime you celebrate a 100th anything, it should be epic.  Our charity for this event was Seedling Theatre, a wonderful theatrical program for children and young adults with disabilities, as well as their able bodied peers.  Extra efforts to generate donations for this deserving program included having t-shirts for the first time, getting an article published in the Pantagraph on August 5, and appearing on a talk show on WJBC on Friday morning, August 8.

At the crack of dawn on August 10, Meg Anderson was baking her famous coffee cake while I was mixing Gatorade to place near the Russian Gardens, two miles from the start of the run.  The weather was perfect, the kind of day where nothing can go wrong.

Nothing could go wrong, that is, until I decided that the weight of enough Gatorade to serve 100 runners was more than I could carry. Driving east on Vernon Avenue, I took a hard left onto the Constitution Trail right in front of a Normal squad car.  Lights and a siren were not the sights and sounds I was hoping for.  I pleaded for mercy with a story about this being the 100th ABC run and how I didn’t want to strain my back hauling a hundred pounds of Gatorade/water on foot for a long distance.  After calling his supervisor, the patrolman decided to let me go.  Phew!

The scene at the Schumacher home was busy!  Lines of people were walking from the parking lot to their home.  Lines were forming in the house to sign up, get shirts, and find a place for all the food.  Shortly after 7:30, we managed to gather the crowd for a group photo to be taken by Nancy Beaty (NB Photography) who volunteered her services.  Thanks, Nancy!

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After running or walking, participants had the greatest feast ever for an ABC run, including:   -coffee cake and ham/egg casserole (Meg Anderson),   -sausage casserole (Stacy Sheridan),   -biscuits & gravy, hard-boiled eggs, big family bars, Bloody Mary fixings (Schumachers)   -Bloody Mary garnishes (Kent Lowry)   -Sangria (Jeffrey McCarther)   -mini-sausage/biscuit and chicken/biscuit (Sharri Pelarske),   -french toast casserole (Robyn Walter),   -strawberries, blueberries, bananas (Lisa Sparks),   -chocolate chip cookies (Kevin Fahling),   -sausage/egg casserole, plus goodies from Weber Bakery (Donna Anhalt),   -assorted pastries (Catherine Anhalt),   -Luna bars and Gatorade (Angela Funk),   -caramel brownies (Kristen Dixon),   -cheese & melon (Pam Oles),   -Panera bagels: asiago, cinnamon crunch (Carolyn Oles),   -sweet & nutty cereal mix (Dawn Auten),   -very berry tiramisu (Anonymous),   -Panera bagels (Kristi Newbold),   -Grove Street Bakery coffee cake (Mary Pinkham),   -muffins (Stacie Rood),   -scotcheroos & brownies (Dawn Dieckgrafe),   -bananas (Kevin Callis),   -gorp (Missi Adams),   -cheesecake bars (Schleuters),   -scotcharoos (Felicia Harrison),   -brownie bites (June Black),   -salsa (Tara Payne),   -Sugar Mama Bakery cupcakes (Tanya Gionatti),   -banana bread (Krissy Dodson),   -banana nut/cinnamon swirl (Zooks),   -peanut butter oatmeal cookies (Michele Masten),   -smoked gouda cheese (Ropp Jersey Cheese Store),   -chocolate chip cookies (DoubleTree Hotel)   -other food & drink (Anonymous – thank you whoever you are).

Fat and happy after consuming huge quantities of delicious food, it was time to start the special program we had planned for this, the 100th ABC run.  First on the program was Donna Anhalt, the Seedling Theatre director.  Donna thanked us profusely for our generous donations and support, explained how the program works, and then introduced several of the Seedling Theatre performers who then performed a very touching rendition of the song “Let it Go”.

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As they sang, I thought back on the Seedling Theatre production that Meg and I attended a couple years ago.  I thought about the love and caring you could sense throughout the room and the caring mentoring relationship between Donna and her assistants and all of the performers.  You could feel the same thing now as each participant proudly and enthusiastically performed.  When they were finished, they received a standing ovation.

I should have known better than to let myself be so moved by their performance.  I had a little lump in my throat when it was my time to say a bit about the ABC run program.  Fortunately, shortly after I managed to utter, “I probably shouldn’t have planned to follow that”, Laurel saved me by stepping in to give awards at random to a few of those that brought food.  Food is such an important part of ABC runs that it we decided to recognize those that bring the food we all enjoy.  We collected cards that had been filled out by those that brought food and drew cards from a box.  With a Seedling Theatre performer as her assistant, Laurel awarded gifts to:   –Tara Payne (harvest basket from Laurel)   –Sharri Pelarski (harvest basket from Laurel)   –Mary Pinkham (four tickets to the Seedling Theatre Christmas production)   –Kevin Fahling (four tickets to the Seedling Theatre Christmas production)

By this time, I was ready to finish the festivities by talking about how this crazy idea of a series of social runs with a free-will offering for charity evolved during a run ten years ago and how my training partners (Kevin Fahling, Mike Heffron, and Mary Ellen Schupbach) embraced the idea and still provide their support.  I noted how Meg enthusiastically joined in, invited friends, and started her tradition of making coffee cake.  Before long others were bringing food, hosting ABC runs and the rest is history.  After 100 ABC runs, all of us who support ABC runs have collectively raised more than $75,000 and benefited 26 different local children’s charities.  It’s times like this that I realize the limits of my vocabulary and am at a loss to express how I feel about all your support for these worthwhile causes.  Thank you so very, very much!

That’s all the news from Lake Tipton, where all the women are fast, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.

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ABC Run #99, for St. Jude

ABC Run #99 was hosted by Julie & Brian Sibley on July 20.  An impressive total of $1,537 was donated for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, thanks to 44 generous participants.  The donations will help the members of the “We got the runs” team to meet 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 venue was great, especially the deck and backyard pool.  The temperature was perfect: good for running but it warmed up in time for lounging and swimming.


The course was great, a country adventure including a gravel road and a water stop at the 2 mile mark.  Along the course, Dan Anderson took some running action photos.

The menu was great, including coffee cake from Meg Anderson, cinnamon pretzels from Wendy Anderson, a breakfast casserole from Julie Sibley, fruit provided by Jeffry McCarther, cupcakes donated by Krista Graff of Sugar Mama Bakery, cookies from Laurel Schumacher, and more!  Sorry, I didn’t catch the names of other food providers. Thanks to all who provided the food.

We have now held a total of twelve ABC runs for St. Jude and the total of all twelve runs is $12,766.  Thanks so much to everyone for all of your support!

ABC Run #100, to benefit The Seedling Theater will be held at the Schumacher home on August 10 at 7:30 (doors open at 7:00).

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ABC Run #97/Multi-Sport Training Day, May 17

Adventures Benefiting Children Run #97/Multi-Sport Training Day was held at the Timber Pointe Outdoor Center on May 17.  A total of 85 generous participants raised an awesome total of $1,451 for the Easter Seals Timber Pointe Outdoor Center.  Thanks so much to everyone who supported this event through your participation, donations, help with organizing, and providing food and drink.  Thanks for organizing goes to Kevin McCarthy, John Pratt, and others from the LRC, Tri-Sharks, and Masters Swim Team.


The theme song for this event could have been the theme song from the movie, Frozen.  The temps at the start had barely crawled into the forties before we started.  The run started a bit later than usual because we gave participants more time to find the location (we met in a different building this year).  After a few words from John Pratt about how important Timber Pointe is to the kids that attend camps and to their parents, Meg Anderson got us organized at about 8:20 for our traditional group photo and we were on our way.  I took the camera and did some interval training trying to get running photos and then I handed the camera off to Meg to get more action shots.  You can find all the photos on the Facebook Multi-Sport page.


The swim took place from 9:00 to 10:00 and the temps (in the forties) that were so great for running were not so great for the swimmers.  Even those wearing wetsuits were frozen (and not singing “the cold never bothered me anyway”).  The bicycle ride started at 10:30 with Mick Hannah leading a group on a ride of about 26 miles, and Kevin McCarthy led a group on a ride of about 13 miles.  Despite the temps which had only climbed to about 50, Richard Verdery wore a sleeveless bicycle jersey.  He might have been singing “the cold never bothered me anyway”, but he was shivering before the start, muttering something about just toughing it out.

The day concluded with a fantastic cookout, complete with a keg.  I don’t know what kind of beer that was but it sure tasted good after running and/or swimming and/or bicycling.  The cookout included brats, burgers, and chicken breasts.  Thanks, everyone, for such a fun time!

ABC Run #98 to benefit the Boys & Girls Club will be on Sunday, June 29 at 7:30 AM (doors open at 7:00) at the Anderson home (112 Doud Dr, Normal).

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ABC Run #96, for The Baby Fold

April 19 was a great day to run, a nice change from the last few ABC runs.  Spring is finally here!  IMG_5728
What a blessing to have 88 participants donate at total of $2,359 for The Baby Fold.  This makes Adventure Benefiting Children #96 the 2nd highest in donations, exceeded only by ABC #39 which was held for Austin Carter.

Because the turnout was so large, we gathered outside for pre-run directions.  Dianne Schultz, newly appointed President and CEO of The Baby Fold, expressed sincere thanks.  I then gave door prizes to a few of the 29 participants that were first-time ABC participants.  The 1,000th ABC runner was Sydney Hunt.   We also recognized Michele Ludwig (998th) and Danielle Ludwig (999th).  The prizes were awarded based on who signed in first.


The run options included a 3-mile route up the trail to near I55 and back, a 6-mile route to the grain bins & back, or a 9-mile route that continues on past the grain bins.  The water stop was at the 3-mile mark (thanks, Angel Funk, for supplying the Gatorade).

The post-run pot luck feast was awesome both in terms of the delicious food and that we had plenty for such a large turnout.  We had coffee cake from Meg Anderson, oatmeal from Jenny Keen, breakfast casserole from Stacy Sheridan, lemon bars from Donna Griffin, cookies and bagels from Senthil Ramasamy, cheese from the Ropp Jersey Cheese store and so much more.  Sorry I didn’t find out who all of the chefs were.  Thanks to Jenny Keen for a great job of hosting us at The Baby Fold and thanks to all of you for making it great fun and a huge success!


The next ABC Run (#97) will be Saturday, May 17 at/for the Timber Pointe Easter Seals Camp.  This event will be run in conjunction with Multi-Sport day.  If you want, you can add a swim and/or a bike ride and then enjoy the cookout.  See the Lake Run Club page of Facebook for details (posted by Kevin McCarthy) and to let us know if you will be participating.

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