O'Fallon Progress

Runners ignore rain, turn out in record numbers for O’Fallon VFW’s .1K Fun Run

The O’Fallon VFW knows how to put the “fun” in “fundraiser,” for rain did not deter hundreds of participants in the Post 805 sixth annual .1K Fun Run on March 30.

In fact, it was the largest crowd to date to tackle the race, which takes place from the caboose in downtown to the VFW Charles A. Fricke Post 805 at 221 W. First St.

The record attendance was 678, said Sharon Zinck, who, along with her husband, Paul Zinck, organizes the event.

“We had 60 people sign up the day of the race!” she said.

The race is for everyone, and the VFW describes it as a “fun, zany, wacky, all-ages, family event.” .1K is one-tenth of a kilometer, 100 meters, about 109 yards.

“It is a distance that anybody can finish. You can run, walk, hop, skip, jump, crawl, or dance and still finish the race. We believe everybody should race at their own pace,” Sharon Zinck relayed.

“We’ve had people on scooters and wheelchairs, and babies in strollers,” she said.

“At the length of about one city block, it is a short distance that anyone can finish in pretty much any manner that matches their skills and abilities,” the race committee posted on their event website.

“It’s such a fun day. Such a great time for everybody, and supporting a good cause,” Sharon Zinck said.

While a light rain had fallen that Saturday morning — enough to make umbrellas, hoodies and ponchos necessary — the course got even soggier right before the start time.

“The skies opened up! We started a couple minutes early,” she said.

The pre-registration fee was $20, which included a T-shirt, numbered race bib, and a race window decal. On the day of the race, the fee was $25.

Post 805 Commander Ed Martinez said more than $19,000 was raised March 30.

The money raised is split between the VFW National Home for Children in Eaton Rapids, Michigan, and the VFW Post 805 Troop Support Fund, he said.

The national home is a non-profit organization that provides a nurturing community for children, youths and families of veterans, active-duty military and members of the VFW and its Auxiliary opportunities for growth and development.

Post 805 is proud of its history helping veterans in the community, and funds are donated to the Post 805 Troop Support Fund to help local veterans and their families when they are in need, Martinez said.

Martinez was ecstatic relaying the totals and thanked the O’Fallon City Council during the public comments portion of their April 1 meeting.

“We had 400 last year. This year we had 680 runners in the middle of the rain,” he said. “This is a great event. It’s all about taking care of the vets.”

He complimented the O’Fallon community.

“This is a great place to live. People care. I am so glad I retired here,” he said.

Paul Zinck is the member who came up with the idea, after seeing one in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and imported the suggestion here. The VFW got on board right away – and so did the support, Sharon Zinck said.

Since then, VFW Post 805 has been the home of the original VFW .1K, but others have joined in — the VFW Post in Naperville, Illinois, saw O’Fallon’s and has organized its own .1 K each year since 2014. The VFW National Home has also hosted an annual .1K fun run since 2017.

More than $135,000 has been raised through all VFW .1K fundraisers that have been held so far, Sharon Zinck said.

“There is a great need to help veterans,” she added.

Michael McGrath of Naperville attends the O’Fallon event every year. He’s a board member and Illinois representative of the VFW National Home for Children.

The .1K is held rain or shine and is not rescheduled. Sharon Zinck said the date has been announced for next year — April 4. Registration forms will be available starting in December.

There is no age limit, and families can register as a group, too.

“We have had a 2-week-old child and lots of other young children who had a great time and had many participants over 80 years old. At our 4th annual .1K run, a World War II U.S. Marine veteran celebrated his 95th birthday by racing-at-his-own-pace. He’s been back to every race since,” she said about Bob Schultz, now 97, of Belleville. “He’s our oldest.”

A costume contest is held for both adults and children. This year’s adult winners were Dan and Net Elrod as Vacationers and the child winner was Lindsay Autry as Alice and Wonderland, with her dad, Matthew Autry, as the White Rabbit.

The race may be short, but the volunteers make sure everyone is fed and make it a festive atmosphere. Racers can help themselves to complimentary bottles of water and bananas or other piece of fruit.

The Post serves breakfast. This year it was biscuits and gravy, and sponsors also make food available, such as muffins, bagels and beverages.

After the race, the Marine Corps League fires up their grill for a barbecue.

“I attended the after-party last year, and it’s a lot of fun. We had a great time,” commented Alderman Ross Rosenberg. “I suggest everyone getting involved.”

The VFW event was supported by 25 sponsors this year.

Zinck praised all the volunteers and sponsors who put the event together, as well as the city for its support.

“It’s such a great effort by everyone. The VFW couldn’t do this by themselves. We have so many people who come help or want to pitch in,” she said.

The .1K Fun Run is just one of many events the VFW plans each year. Registration is now open for the Star Wars Trivia Night on May 4 (“May the Fourth Be with You”).

All proceeds from bar and food sales, hall rentals and video gaming machines are used to keep the Post’s doors open and to help veterans in the community. Learn more at the Post 805 website, www.vfwpost805.org, or call 618-624-6575.

For more information about the race, visit http://www.vfw805point1k.com/

For more information on the National Children’s Home, visit www.vfwnationalhome.org.