Some 700 people ran and walked for literacy at the Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park Saturday morning.
The occasion was the 12th annual Bill Gallagher Memorial 5K Fun Run and Walk for Literacy.
The event, hosted by the Anoka-Hennepin Educational Foundation (AHEF), takes place in memory of the late Bill Gallagher, a former District 11 elementary school principal, who was a literacy advocate.
According to Tess DeGeest, AHEF executive director, the 700 participants this year far surpassed the 456 that took part in 2011.
One reason could have been the weather. It was a cool, but dry Saturday, but it snowed early in the morning before the 2011 event, DeGeest said.
In addition, DeGeest said more promotion of the event took place this year, notably in the pre-K run/walk for children which produced 35 entrants compared with three a year ago.
And there were more sponsors this year that enabled the foundation to offer additional incentives, which drew more participation from District 11 middle and high schools, she said.
As in the past, participants designated an elementary school and every dollar earned went to that school for reading/literacy programs, according to DeGeest.
And the elementary school with the highest per capita participation received an extra $1,000, DeGeest said.
But this year for the first time middle and high schools were added to the mix with participants designating the dollars they earned to the school of their choice, she said.
And the per capita middle and high school winners each received $500, DeGeest said.
Going into Saturday’s event, based on pre-registrations, Champlin-Brooklyn Park Academy and Johnsville Elementary School were neck-and-neck for the elementary school prize so were Blaine and Champlin-Park high schools for the high school award, while Oak View Middle School was well ahead in the middle school division, she said.
“But we had quite a few people register on-site so that could change the final numbers,” DeGeest said.
In the end, Johnsville earned the $1,000 elementary school prize, Blaine High School won the high school event, while Oak View kept its place as the top middle school fund-raiser.
Another change this year was where the dollars raised would go, according to DeGeest said.
“In the past it was to the school’s media center, but we wanted to leave it up to the individual school to determine where the money could best be spent on a reading/literacy program,” she said.
For example, that could be a summer reading program or after-school tutoring in reading, DeGeest said.
Every child that participated in the run/walk received a free book.
A table full of children’s books was set up in the Coon Rapids Dam Visitor Center for children to browse before and after the run/walk.
And students that took part were also eligible for drawings for a boy’s bicycle and girl’s bicycle, courtesy of one of the event sponsors, Horace Mann Insurance.
Other sponsors were Allina, Anoka Rotary Club, United Educators Credit Union, AKA Sports, State Farm Insurance and Lanigan and Kolb LLP.
According to DeGeest, Allina was a new sponsor this year because the event was a health activity, so was United Educators Credit Union, which recently opened an office in Coon Rapids.
“I also want to thank Anoka County Parks for hosting us again this year,” DeGeest said.
The mission of the AHEF is to seek resources to support and enrich educational opportunities for Anoka-Hennepin students in partnership with the community.
AHEF was created in 1990 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation and is a separate entity from the school district.
Peter Bodley is at [email protected]