Date changes, but heart remains same

With a change of direction, the fourth annual Columbus Fire Department’s Cheer Fund Challenge is hoping to land in an even better place when it comes to helping underprivileged children at Christmas time.

The event has moved from its second Saturday in October spot on the calendar to this Saturday.

“The date that we were using was a very busy day in general,” said firefighter Dan Smith, who has been the running event’s director for all four years. “It was a busy day for the fire department because it fell during fall break and fire prevention week. It is one of our busiest weeks because we are doing tours all week long and there are just a lot of things going on.

“It also fell on Ethnic Expo and it was hard for the police department to help us with traffic control.”

The race now moves before the Mill Race Marathon instead of a couple of weeks after, and its biggest competitor for interest is the Scottish Festival.

“One of the reasons we moved it to the date we did was because we are now before the marathon and hopefully some of the runners will capitalize on it being a training race.

“It also comes on 9/11 weekend. Over the next 10 years, we we have times when 9/11 will come on the second Saturday in September and we will do something special to commemorate it on those days.”

Eventually, the second Saturday in September should work out quite well for the Cheer Fund Challenge, which is an Indiana Timing Race Series event and previously had to share its date with other ITRS events around the state. This Saturday, the Cheer Fund Challenge is the only ITRS event on the schedule.

However, registration is running about 80 entries behind its normal pace as participates might be a little confused about the day. Smith wants to get the word out that runners can sign up this week and make this event the most successful one in the event’s history.

Besides the change in date, the Cheer Fund Challenge had added a 10K relay and individual race to its schedule. Now runners will participate in a 5K, 10K or 15K either individual or relay event. The 15K starts from Fire Station No. 2 at 8 a.m. and the 10K follows 20 minutes later with the 5K kicking off another 20 minutes after the 10K. Whoever reaches the finish line first is the overall Cheer Fund Challenge champion. Each race (six events total) has its own awards as well.

“We added a 10K because it was easy for us to do,” Smith said. “The course is the same for all the races, a 5K lap. We didn’t have to do anything extra on our format sheet. We had people who said they wanted to be on a team for the relay, but they could only get two runners. We will run it this year and use it as an evaluation to see if we want to keep it.”

Smith said he is confident local residents will support the cause.

He used to worry that people were so wrapped up in the marathon but that Cheer Fund Challenge would suffer, but the fire department’s event has its regular backers who have participated in every race.

It had 225 entrants its first year and 242 its second year. That fell to 173 last year.

The good news is that last year’s race raised the most money for the Cheer Fund. Local sponsors have been more generous than ever. Kasey Stam State Farm has been the event’s title sponsor since the start. She is the daughter of firefighter Scott Stam.

On race day, Smith won’t be just an administrator. He will be running on a team with fellow firefighters Mark Ziegler and Ben Noblitt.

To register or get more information, go to cheerfund.com/challenge.

At a glance

Cheer Fund Challenge

WHAT: A 5K, 10K and 15K individual and relay running event that raises money for the Firemen’s Cheer Fund that benefits underprivileged children at Christmas time.

WHEN: Saturday, 8 a.m.

WHERE: Fire Station No. 2, 2376 Arnold St.

FOR INFORMATION OR REGISTRATION: www.cheerfund.com/challenge

2376 Arnold Street.
2376 Arnold Street.