Author: Merlin Anderson

ABC#156, for St. Jude

ABC Run #156 was at Tipton Park on June 20. A record total of $5,110 was donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital thanks to the great generosity of 42 attendees plus 26 others that could not make it but sent us checks or donated online. The donations far exceeded expectations, with the highest total donations among all 156 ABC runs. More importantly, the donations help kids by helping St. Jude provide free lifesaving care and to continue its groundbreaking research. The kids can benefit even more when employees/retirees of companies like State Farm submit their donations for the company match.

Following health guidelines regarding Covid-19, we practiced social distancing and asked participants to show up at different times, thus no group photo. Once again, these simple rules worked perfectly.

If we would have had a group gathering, I would have loved to give special credit to Deb Schumann for attending her 101st ABC run. What an amazing level of support that Deb has shown over the 15+ years of ABC runs. Right behind her are several participants that are past 90 events already.

The food was limited to Meg’s awesome coffee cake cupcakes. Due to Covid-19 concerns we wanted to avoid having participants touch utensils. We look forward to when we can again have the potluck.

We’ve held a total of 18 ABC runs for St. Jude and the total of those runs is $30,671. The total for all 156 ABC runs is $161,615. Thanks so much to everyone for all of your support, and a special thanks to Shady Hollow Trail Runners for giving us a nice boost and a heartfelt note of tribute to Meg!

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ABC#155, The Baby Fold, 4-19-20

A pandemic threatened to end the 15 year streak of annual ABC runs for The Baby Fold. People were being asked to stay home except when necessary, keep at least 6 feet apart, and not have gatherings of more than 10 people. This at a time when the needs of children and families served by The Baby Fold are greater than ever.

We must keep the tradition alive, but how? One solution came when Aimee Beam of The Fold set up a Virtual Run with a link for online donations. Cool, but how about the tradition of meeting somewhere? Can it be done safely? I decided that runners could meet at Tipton Park from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. on April 19 if they would show up at different times and keep at least six feet apart. As an added safety incentive, we had a MUM (Most Unusual Mask) contest in which Bill Hahm won a jar of Meg’s chokecherry jelly for sporting a sneeze-guard-equipped helmet.

The result was fantastic! Donations totaled $3,867, making this the top ABC run for The Baby Fold and the 2nd highest of all 155 ABC runs). $2,770 was donated online. Checks and cash totaled $1,117, including donations for t-shirts. Attendance was 26 and another 26 donated online. The Baby Fold will benefit even more when donations by employees/retirees get submitted to their matching gift program. All this outpouring of generosity and enthusiasm is incredibly heartwarming!

Thanks so much to everyone for making this such a resounding success through your donations, participation, and support. Thanks to Rich Beal and Bill Hahm for helping host. Thanks to Meg Anderson for making coffee cake cupcakes to keep the coffee cake tradition alive safely. Thanks to everyone for magically showing up at different times so that we never had to remind anyone about the rules regarding size of gatherings or about social distancing.

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ABC#154, for MARCFirst Pediatric Therapy

ABC Run #154 was March 1 at Robyn Walter’s home. Fun event with $1,310 donated to MarcFirst Pediatric Therapy by 36 participants plus 15 others that could not attend but got a shirt. The shirt commemorates surpassing the $150,000 mark in total donations for all 153 ABC runs. Thanks much to everyone! If you are a State Farm employee/retiree and you donated $25 or more, please submit your donation to State Farm’s matching program.

Before getting the group photo and heading out for a run, Gregg Chadwick thanked us and told us a little about the exiting new developments at MARCFirst Pediatric Therapy.

It was a great day to run, especially compared to cold weather of the previous few days. Runners/walkers headed west on the constituent trail. There was a refreshment stop near the Japanese Gardens for those choosing to run at least 6 miles. Some went farther, including Mary Pinkham (8 miles) and Denise Jovanovich (10 miles).

Back at the house, Robyn Walter and Gregg Chadwick did a great job of hosting, including organizing the food buffet and mixing mimosas. Another fantastic post-run food fest!

Amazing! A great run and a great brunch with a great bunch of people, for a great cause! Thanks again for the food, donations, and friendship.

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ABC#153, Sugar Grove Nature Center

An amazing total of $1,759 was donated to Sugar Grove Nature Center by the 33 participants, some donations from those that could not attend, and a special donation from Shady Hollow Trail Runners. Thanks so much to all.

At 9:00 we gathered for a group photo and to hear from Jill Wallace, the Environmental Director. Jill thanked us for our efforts and told us that this year’s donations will go toward improvements to Imagination Grove, the children’s play area. Last year’s contributions went toward updating the educational animal displays.

After the group photo, participants opted for the trails or for the road course. I was fortunate to run a bit with my daughter, Tanya Anderson, who is visiting from Wyoming. In spite of living far away, Tanya somehow happened to attend the first three ABC runs that we had done for Sugar Grove. Speaking of firsts, three of the five participants in the first ever ABC run (January 2005) attended (Kevin Fahling, Mike Heffron, myself).

Afterward, we were treated to a great feast! Thanks to Meg Anderson for coffee cake, Stacie Sheridan for breakfast casserole, Jill Wallace for yogurt & granola, Kevin Fahling for chocolate chip cookies, Erin Furimsky for oatmeal cookies, Kathy Alexander for KIND bars, and much more (sorry I didn’t notice who brought the rest).

Thanks so much to everyone who attended, contributed, brought food, and added to the fun!

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ABC#152, Scott Early Learning Center

On January 5, a total of 32 participants generously supported the children in our community with donations that totaled $750. Scott Early Learning Center will benefit even more when State Farm employees/retirees apply under State Farm’s matching grant program. If you contributed $25 or more, please be sure to apply.

Lisa Sparks called the group together and introduced Emily Janssen of the Scott ELC. Emily graciously thanked us and talked briefly about the services the Center provides in providing affordable child care where traditional daycare may not be within reach. Then, before the group photo, I awarded the traveling ABC Big Dog award to Denny McDowell for his consistent support of ABC runs (Denny has participated in 73 of the runs. With that done, we all headed out for a four mile run, giving Dennis Killian cause to ask me “What? No one doing eight miles?”.


We gathered back at the Learning Center for the post-run feast. We had coffee cake from Meg Anderson, cookies from Kevin Fahling, cookies from Laurel Schumacher, mini-quiches from Sandra Sharp, sausage biscuits from Sharri Pelarske, hard-boiled eggs from Kristin Dixon, cinnamon rolls from Tammy Knippenberg, muffins from Deb Schumann, and fruit (bananas, apples, oranges) from Emily Janssen. Thanks so much to everyone!

The final business for the day was the awarding of an Often Running/Vitesse gift card to the 20th person signing the attendance sheet (because it is the first ABC run of 2020). The lucky winner was Larry Schumacher. If we had an award for distance traveled to attend this run, it would be Eric Fortune-Reader who traveled from New Mexico and stopped in Bloomington on his way back to his home in New York.

This is the 12th year we have conducted an ABC run for the Scott Early Learning Center. This year’s $750 brings the twelve-year total to $8,776. The total for all 152 ABC runs is $149,519. Thanks so much to everyone who has provided financial support, food, and encouragement.

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ABC#151, for Adopt-A-Family

Heartwarming! Temps were cold but hearts were warm. Thanks so much to the 43 participants who joined us at Lisa & Jay Sparks’ home on November 9 to support Adopt-A-Family with donations totaling $1,500. This will provide a great Christmas for our assigned family and maybe one more family. Those that submit their donations to their corporate matching gift program will help even more. Thanks to Lisa & Jay for a great job of hosting this event.

At 8:00, Lisa Sparks thanked everyone and briefly told us 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:

After a group picture, we all headed out for a 5.5-mile run on the constitution trail. Mike Laffey served as the photographer and did a great job.

We were treated to a superb breakfast of blueberry pancakes prepared by Jay Sparks, coffee cake from Meg Anderson, breakfast casserole from Stacy Sheridan, biscuit/gravy casserole from Sharri Pelarske, French toast casserole from Robyn Walter, chocolate chip cookies from Kevin Fahling, eggnog from Missy McCarthy, and much more (cranberry bread, bananas, OJ, coffee). I didn’t get names of all the food providers but it was  awesome!

We have completed fifteen years of ABC runs and had another great year. Total contributions for the nine ABC runs in 2019 is $12,851. The total for all 151 ABC runs is $148,734. Looking forward to another great year starting January 11 at Sugar Grove.

Thanks so much for all your support!

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ABC#150, for Heartland Head Start

The weather was good on October 6 for the 24 participants, sunny and temps in the 50s. Heartland Head Start received donations totaling $748, including two donations from runners that could not attend. Thanks everyone!
We wondered if the trails at Sugar Grove would be OK but Jessica Sondgeroth assured us that she encountered good conditions during her 18 mile run the day before (except for a couple of downed trees).

Shortly after 8:00, we gathered for the group photo and to hear a nice thank you from Karen Bruning, Executive Director of Heartland Head Start. Then we were off and running. The group split fairly evenly between trail runners and road runners. Thanks to Pete Cleary for taking photos of the trail runners while Meg and I took to the roads.
The menu was awesome as usual with breakfast casserole, coffee cake, bagels & cream cheese, doughnuts, mini-muffins, cookies, fruit (cantaloupe, pineapple, grapes, bananas), Clif bars, orange juice, coffee, and more. Thanks to all who brought food.

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










The funds raised by all twelve runs for Heartland add up to a heartwarming total of $8,597. 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.”


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ABC#149, for Seedling Theatre

ABC Run #149 on August 31 was a success with $846 donated to Seedling Theatre thanks to the generosity of everyone involved. Thanks much to:
(a) Laurel & Larry Schumacher for being awesome hosts at their home.
(b) 30 attendees (and three other contributors) that donated a total of $846.
(c) Sharri Pelarske and Meg Anderson, for donating homemade preserves 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 I recall that it was fantastic!

Seedling Theatre is a wonderful theatrical program for children & young adults & adults with disabilities, as well as their able bodied peers. We have completed ten ABC runs for Seedling Theatre, generating total donations of $11,625. ABC runs have been Seedling’s major source of donations which has helped them to purchase sound equipment, pay copyright fees, give small honorariums to staff, and much more. Thanks a million to everyone for all the support

Donna Anhalt, the Seedling Theatre director, is deeply touched by the outpouring of support for Seedling. Before we ran, she took a couple minutes to express her sincere thanks and to tell us a little about Seedling Theatre.
After the run, we held the drawing for the door prizes which included two sets of four tickets to Seedling’s Christmas production (donated by Donna Anhalt), two jars of homemade chokecherry jelly (donated by Meg Anderson), and a gift bag containing homemade preserves (donated by Sharri Pelarske). The lucky winners were:
1. Megan Ebert won a set of four tickets to Seedling’s Christmas performance.
2. Pat Sheridan won a set four tickets to Seedling’s Christmas performance.
3. Joe Kinkade won a jar of chokecherry jelly.
4. Ann Aubry won a jar of chokecherry jelly.
5. Rachel Wells won the gift bag of homemade preserves.

A great time was had by all. See you at the next ABC run which will at Sugar Grove Nature Center on October 6, benefiting Heartland Head Start.

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ABC#148, for St. Jude

ABC Run #148 was at our house on July 14. An awesome total of $3,030 was donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital thanks to the great generosity of 24 attendees plus 17 others that could not make it but sent us checks or donated online. The donations exceeded my goal and are helping our team with the team fund-raising goal. More importantly, the donations help kids by helping St. Jude provide free lifesaving care and to continue its groundbreaking research. The kids can benefit even more when employees/retirees of a companies like State Farm submit their donations for the company match.

Attempting to beat the heat, we had a brief welcome, quick group photo, and headed out for a run with only the instructions to “follow me”. It was a 2.5 mile figure-eight neighborhood course that most runners ran twice for a five-mile run. We had maps available so I don’t think many got lost. Thanks to Pat Sheridan for taking photos.

The menu was really great as usual. Thanks so much to Meg Anderson for preparing a feast and to all the others that brought delicious food to share.

We’ve held a total of 17 ABC runs for St. Jude and the total of those runs is $25,101. The total for all 148 ABC runs is $145,640. Thanks so much to everyone for all of your support!

ABC Run #149, to benefit The Seedling Theater will be held at the Schumacher home on Saturday, August 31 at 7:30 a.m. (doors open at 7:00).

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ABC#147/Multi-Sport Day

ABC#147/Multi-Sport Day on May 18 was a success with 65 participants and $1,830 donated to Timber Pointe Outdoor Center! Thanks so much to everyone who attended, donated, organized, brought food, and enhanced the day with your enthusiasm and friendship.

The weather was great, maybe just a little warm for running and a little windy for bicycling, but we will take it after all the cold, wet weather we have had this spring. The water temperature (63 degrees) was a bit cool for swimming but a good number of swimmers braved the conditions.

At 8:00 sharp, we gathered to explain the events of the day and to get the group photo before the run. About 1/3 of the runners chose to run the trails while the road runners ended up splitting between those running the 4-mile course and those doing the 8-mile course.

At 9:00, swimmers headed down to the dock for the open-water swim. At 10:30, the bicyclists took off for either a 13 mile ride or a 26 mile ride. The strong SW wind made the first half of the bike ride challenging (good training).
At 12:00, all were rewarded with a great cookout at Stearns Lodge. Grilled chicken breasts, brats, all the fixings, and a keg of craft beer! What could be better to make the miles of hard work worth it?

Thanks again to everyone who made this event another great success. A special thanks to the Lake Run Club and the Masters Swimming group for underwriting the costs so that we could continue the tradition of 100% of donations going to the charity. Thanks to Kevin McCarthy & John Pratt for all the organizing. Thanks to all helped with all the various duties and thanks to those who brought food to share. What a great day!

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