Leawood Rotary Club plans for annual Labor Day 5K fundraiser with some pandemic provisions

The Leawood Rotary Club is continuing to plan their major fundraiser of the year — the Labor Day 5K. But the event will look at little different than it has in past years, like the celebration pictured above. One major change will be enabling virtual participants to run the race from where they are. Courtesy photo.

For the first time virtual runners will be allowed to participate in the Leawood Labor Day 5K. The added option is part of the COVID-19 prevention steps being taken to ensure the 2020 race can still be held as scheduled, Rotary Club Publicity Chair Lisa Harrison said.

Every year the Leawood Rotary Club puts on a walk/run race as its main fundraiser for the year. The money collected goes to any number of children’s charities through the A Child’s Tomorrow organization, including the Johnson County Christmas Bureau and Stop Hunger Now.

“This has been our one and only fundraising event for the last five-plus years,” Harrison said.

Like many fundraising organizations and groups, Harrison said the Leawood Rotary Club relies on events to gather donations. During the pandemic, such events have been put on hold as gatherings can spread COVID-19 to any number of participants.

“We’re trying to commit to doing an event because we know people do want to get out, and what’s safer than going out and jogging or walking a 5K out on the streets where you can be 10 to 15 feet away from everybody the whole time,” Harrison said.

ON RACE DAY

The race will be held as usual in the morning on Sept. 7, and will follow Tomahawk Creek Parkway. Start times will be staggered and people will be encouraged to wear masks and stay socially distanced throughout.

People who opt to run virtually will still pay an entry fee and receive the participation t-shirt, but will log their time from where they decide to run or walk in the race.

It’s a family event, Harrison said, so people of all commitment levels are invited to participate — whether they’re serious about getting a good time, want to walk with a stroller or jog with a dog.

KC Running Company, a co-organizer of the event, will provide timers that participants can wear in their shoes in order to log their times.

Registration for the race is open on the KC Running Company website.

ROTARIANS IN ACTION

On top of its usual gifts, Harrison said the organization has given even more money to local charities amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Additional gifts rose to about $40,000, divided equally between the Catholic Charities of Kansas City and The Church of the Resurrection’s emergency relief funds.

Harrison said public health is an important value of Rotary Clubs. In fact, one of the key goals of the organization was to eradicate Polio in the 1970s.

“For the last 20 something years our main focus has been to eradicate Polio,” Harrison said. “It was a horrible pandemic.”

According to the national website for the organization, Polio has been eliminated in all but three countries thanks in part to the efforts of the Rotarians to make the immunization more widely available.

That health crisis certainly draws a parallel to the public health crisis the world faces today, Harrison said.

“So the irony is that here we find ourselves in a new global pandemic. We don’t have a vaccine yet like we did with Polio,” she said.  “It is interesting that rotary was kind of in this pandemic eradication business a long time ago.”