This Sunday, up to several dozen Bloomington-Normal runners will get together for a run and breakfast.
It’s a chance for them to run together and socialize. It’s also a way to raise money for a good cause.
Sunday’s run will be the 77th ABC run, or Adventures Benefiting Children. And it could put the group over the $50,000 mark for the amount of money they’ve raised for various charities.
The runs started with Merlin Anderson of Normal and a handful of other runners who trained for marathons together, running in area parks and on the roads. One of the runners suggested they all throw some money in a pot every time they ran together and donate it.
Meg began bringing coffee cake for a post-run treat, and the runners started holding potlucks after the runs. Various runners now host the runs and potluck at their homes.
“That was the whole idea. It was a social run with a freewill offering,” Merlin Anderson said. “It’s not a race. We don’t charge anything. It’s just friends getting together to run and eat afterward and give what they want.”
Deb Aukerman of Normal has been running the ABC runs for several years.
“It just seemed like the thing to do,” Aukerman said. “You get to run and be with people you enjoy being with, and you know the money is going to something really worthwhile.
“It makes you feel good that you’re helping someone who can really use it,” she added.
The money has gone to organizations that benefit children, such as The Baby Fold, Heartland Head Start and The Children’s Foundation: Scott Early Learning Center. Some runs have benefited individual children with life-threatening illnesses.
Since the ABC runs began in January 2005, they have raised the most money — almost $8,700 — for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
The run on Sunday will raise money for the Seedling Theater, a theater group for children and young adults with disabilities. Laurel and Larry Schumacher of Bloomington will host the run, and they chose the Seedling Theater as an organization to benefit from the ABC runs.
“I love the whole idea of what it’s for, the whole concept of doing something we love and have it enhance the lives of kids,” Laurel Schumacher, who is a first-grade teacher, said of the ABC runs.
The Schumachers will serve biscuits and gravy and have a bloody mary bar at the run they host, along with Meg Anderson’s coffee cake. The event needs to raise $868 to put the ABC runs over the $50,000 mark.
Anderson keeps careful track of the total amount of money raised by each run, the number of people who show up (769 different people have run at least one ABC run), and the charities that benefit (26 different ones so far).
But the giving itself is anonymous. Anderson doesn’t keep track of what any individual gives, and there is no recognition of those who give a certain amount.
“The money is incidental. It’s getting together and giving what you want or what you feel you can that day,” he said, adding that 100 percent of the money donated goes to the organization benefiting from a particular run.
Anderson sets up two courses for each run, usually one about 4 miles and another from 8 to 10 miles, and he sets out Gatorade for the runners. While the Andersons and most of the ABC run participants are members of the Lake Run Club, the ABC runs are not official Lake Run Club events. And they are open to anyone.
Aukerman said the Andersons are good role models, in a low-profile kind of way.
“Meg and Merlin are such a neat couple,” she said. “There are some people that draw groups to come and support things. They are just very encouraging to new runners in particular, and so you have that feeling that you can help out, and give a little bit.”
“I like the spirit of all the runners that show up,” Merlin Anderson said.
“It’s really a friendly atmosphere. There’s almost a joy of runners going out and running together. They are all smiles. It doesn’t have the seriousness of a race. I think doing it for a cause adds to the fun.”
Photos: Top, Runners participate in an ABC run to benefit The Baby Fold in April 2011. Bottom, Runners at an ABC run at Sugar Grove Nature Center in October 2011, for a run benefiting Heartland Head Start. Photos provided by Merlin Anderson.