Hero-themed race returns, with a twist

Members of the Benton Harbor Boys and Girls teen center hand out cups of water to participants in the RACERS Superhero 5K in Benton Harbor on April 27, 2013. (HP file photo)

Members of the Benton Harbor Boys and Girls teen center hand out cups of water to participants in the RACERS Superhero 5K in Benton Harbor on April 27, 2013. (HP file photo)

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

BENTON HARBOR — Local runners can still wear tights and capes for the fourth annual Superhero 5K.

However, this year will be focused on the everyday hero.

This year, rather than traditional superhero attire, organizers are urging participants to dress up as firefighters or police officers for the April 23 race.

“This year we’re more focused on our everyday heros,” said Teresa Fitzgerald, director of SWMI RACERS and senior sourcing specialist at Whirlpool Corp. “Not every hero wears a cape. We’re focused on our public safety officers, our firefighters, veterans and medical personnel.”

Marianne Groth, president of SWMI RACERS and executive assistant of GPO at Whirlpool, said the race was created through the formation of RACERS in 2012.

Since the majority of people in the club worked at Whirlpool, members decided to tie it into one of the home appliance company’s signature charities – the Boys & Girls Clubs in Benton Harbor.

With the tagline of “to be a hero and support,” RACERS created a 5K that fit the superhero theme.

“It’s been cool to see people dress up. We wanted to fill a need they had,” Groth said of BGCA. “After they had built the new clubhouses, there wasn’t any money in the budget to put bleachers in the gymnasium. When the parents come to watch or try to coach the kids, they are either sitting on the floor or standing.”

All of the money RACERS collects at each 5K goes toward a fund earmarked for bleachers and the Boys and Girls Clubs in Benton Harbor.

At last year’s 5K, Groth said nearly 100 people participated, with donations reaching almost $3,000.

With about 75 people registered three weeks before the race, Groth said they hope to surpass the amount raised last year.

Fitzgerald said her favorite part of the race is watching kids come in their costumes.

“I love to see the kids dress up in their superhero costumes,” she said. “They’re always excited. Then they get to see the adults dress up and they get more excited.”

A few changes

To coincide with the twist on the race’s recurring theme, Groth said RACERS are reaching out to all Southwest Michigan fire departments for an inaugural Firefighter Chili Cook Off. After participants taste all the entries, the winning fire station gets a traveling trophy.

The course will still start at the Joel E. Smilow Teen Center, which serves as one of the campuses for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor.

However, the course will be measured by a U.S. track and field course certifier to ensure it is exactly 3.1 miles. By doing so, the overall finishers will be course holders and can defend their title.

Maytag is also sponsoring the 5K run/walk for the first time.

Laura Ginter, Maytag brand manager, said the idea of providing monetary support for the event seemed like a good fit.

“Boys & Girls Club is our main charity and we are very involved there,” Ginter said. “It seemed like a good match because the race would be honoring those individuals who are dependable for the community and seen as reliable.”

Tickets are being sold for $25 for those 15 and older, $15 for those 14 and younger, with $5 discounts for active military and public safety personnel.

To register for the raise or to learn how to volunteer, visit www.racerssuperhero5k.com.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on April 5, 2016)

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