Want to make sure your runner knows he or she has your support during the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon?
Grab a "Cheer Sign," add the runner's name and decorate it however you want. Then hold it up as he or she runs past and yell really loud.
The Eastern Illinois Foodbank will hand out 3,000 Cheer Signs at the race's Health and Fitness Expo on Thursday and Friday. The signs are being provided by UpClose Printing, and for a donation of any size to the food bank, one of them is yours to decorate.
"A lot of runners appreciate having their name up on a sign when they run past," said Cheryl Precious, director of marketing and development for the Eastern Illinois Foodbank. "They also may keep them, especially if this is their first race, as a memento."
This is the food bank's first year of involvement with the marathon. In addition to handing out the Cheer Signs at the expo, the food bank is one of the charities to which runners can make a donation when they register online for one of the races. The other charities listed with the online registration form are the Champaign-Urbana Schools Foundation and Special Olympics of Illinois.
While the food bank will benefit by receiving donations and increasing its visibility through its involvement with the marathon, "It's more about building our relationship with the marathon and the folks supporting the marathon," Precious said. "And it's just a really good way for us to be visually present in an event that is so important in the community.
"Thematically, it makes a lot of sense. We've really been renewing our efforts around healthy foods in the community, and with the national campaign to fight childhood obesity."
The food bank is also providing volunteers to the marathon. Some will work a water station along the course, and the food bank is also organizing the volunteers for the Friday night pasta feed, "which we thought was a very appropriate task for us," Precious said.
In addition to donations from runners registering for a race, the Champaign-Urbana Schools Foundation will also receive a portion of the entry fees from the Busey Illinois Youth Run.
The schools foundation is helping promote the youth run by sending fliers out to area schools and providing information for teachers if they request it. It has arranged for speakers in some schools, said Gail Rost, executive director of the schools foundation.
"We definitely receive a benefit, and it supports something we believe in the benefit of physical activity to kids," Rost said. "It's something we really appreciate being a part of."
The schools foundation also provides volunteers, primarily for the youth run.
"It's really turned out to be a nice relationship," Rost said. "They want to get the whole community involved, and this is a good way to do that."