The yellow brick road went through Irvine Park and the Northern Wisconsin State Fair grounds on Saturday in Chippewa Falls. The third annual Oz Run had witches, flying monkeys and tin men, but it also had two organizations receiving donations from the event.
Irvine Park and Chippewa County 4-H are the recipients of The Oz Run’s fundraising this year. Irvine Park has been included since the race’s inception, but each year one or two different organizations are selected along with the park.
First-year race director Tess Morgan said the sponsors are the major proponents of the fundraising.
“We have amazing local sponsors,” Morgan said. “They help supply many of the materials needed to help make a run happen.”
Morgan said there are sponsors that donate directly to the cause and that’s the most effective way to provide to the selected organizations. She said runners’ registrations fees first go to race operation costs, but then the rest goes to the organizations.
The race has donated more than $1,000 to three organizations last year, and Morgan said Chippewa County 4-H plans to use the donated funds from this year to purchase robotics kits for their STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program.
Morgan said this year’s race had about 100 less racers than last year’s, but mother nature could be blamed for the absences.
“We’re hearing because of the cold, damp spring a lot of runners didn’t have the opportunity they’d like to prepare for the run.” Morgan said.
Josh Halverson ran The Oz Run 5K for the second time and not only placed first overall, but set a personal record when he finished in 18 minutes and 46 seconds. The 13-year-old from Cameron said he discovered the race after his mom searched for 5K races online.
Halverson said the nearly 80 percent humidity levels and rangy terrain wasn’t a concern during the race.
“I don’t mind running in this type of weather,” Halverson said. “It was pretty hilly but I’m used to the hills.”
Travis Logslett, a 35-year-old runner from Chippewa Falls, also set a personal record as he finished ten seconds after Halverson. He said he had recently ran the half marathon in Eau Claire and was preparing to run the Ragnar Relay with a team in a few weeks.
Logslett said the course was challenging and rewarding but was happy to participate in an event that also gives back to his community.
“We go to Irvine Park a lot,” Logslett said. “It’s great that money can go there and continue to make the park wonderful for everyone.”
Barb Wilke, a 51-year-old caregiver from West Bend, came to The Oz Run this year as the reigning women’s’ 5K champion. Her 51:22 race time wasn’t fast enough to keep the title this year but said she was happy with her second-place finish. Wilke said neither the weather or the course affected her.
“The weather wasn’t a major factor with the short distance,” Wilke said. “The course was manageable, it wasn’t as tough as other people said.”
Dick Hebert, director of Parks, Recreation and Forestry in Chippewa Falls, agreed and said the park has relied on events like The Oz Run to help support a new building. Hebert said the new welcome center and small mammal storage building is directly connected to proceeds from the race over the last three years.
“The great thing about this event isn’t only the support with generous contributions,” Hebert said. “It’s the marketing we’ve received as well.”
Hebert said the park hopes to have the ribbon cutting for the new facility soon, but semantics still need to be worked out.