Moving barriers: Running enthusiasts create fund for children in need

Tayshaun Bowie, 9, runs down the sidewalk during an after school run club at Cleveland Elementary School in Port Huron. (Jeffrey Smith | Times Herald)

Tayshaun Bowie, 9, runs down the sidewalk during an after school run club at Cleveland Elementary School in Port Huron. (Jeffrey Smith | Times Herald)

By Tony Wittkowski | City Reporter | The Times Herald

For 20 minutes every Thursday, Dawn Schweihofer runs with two dozen Cleveland Elementary students as part of an after-school running club.

As a fifth grade science and social studies teacher, Schweihofer makes sure these students run one mile, read one book and do one good deed once a week.

However, the real difference came when Schweihofer took part in the Jingle Bell Run on Dec. 6, 2014, in Port Huron with Amy Meeker-Taylor and Christine Shigley.

Schweihofer noticed two of her students were running in jeans because their families couldn’t buy buy jogging clothes.

“Both students were in my class, and they were wearing the exact same clothes they wore in class,” Schweihofer said. “Another girl in class wears the same shoes she’s had since third grade.”

The three have created the Starting Line Youth Running Fund to help children who want to run but cannot afford shoes, apparel or entry fees for local races.

“We wanted to find a way to move past those barriers that are holding them back,” Schweihofer said. “There are a lot of fees, so many don’t even enter.”

The fund’s main focus will be to work with elementary running clubs and their advisers, Shigley said.

“We’ll be there, whether it’s buying and donating apparel or making sure the running clubs have water and snacks,” Shigley said. “The bulk of what we are going to do is partner up with other racers and have them donate extra money to our fund and sponsor entries for kids.”

Most of the donations will help pay entry fees for local races. Schweihofer said most races require $20 to $25 to register a runner.

Schweihofer said the fund eventually will offer scholarships to pay for half of the students’ entry fees.

“We are hoping to maybe even cover all of it,” she said. “We will start locally with the highest need in the Port Huron Area School District.”

The fund was created Jan. 6, with the funds handled by the Community Foundation of St. Clair County.

Lynn Alexander, community foundation vice president, said the three organizers came to the organization in early December.

When the founders discovered how much paperwork and money went into creating their own charity, they realized they could do the same thing by creating a fund with the community foundation.

“It’s something that is common. It’s easier to go through us,” Alexander said. “From my perspective, I like it when individuals in the community work with us to fulfill a need.”

The two parties established a fund agreement that spelled out what the donations would be used for and allowed the foundation to process a grant on behalf of the running fund organizers.

Shigley said organizers have two events planned to help raise money for the fund.

On Feb. 12, Fuel Woodfire Grill at 213 Huron Ave., Port Huron,will have a dinner night with 10 percent of sales donated back to the fund.

The other is a “Girl’s Night Out” wine tasting event at Green Barn Winery in Smiths Creek from 6-8 p.m. Feb. 28. Money that comes in from the pre-ordered $40 tickets also will go back into the fund.

The fund had raised $2,080 as of Tuesday, Shigley said.

People can donate online at or through the community foundation.

Schweihofer said she and her colleagues are trying not to bite off more than they can chew in the early stages.

Shira Maydwell, 9, Dawn Schweihofer and Kendall Urie, 10, run laps around Cleveland Elementary School. (Tony Wittkowski | Times Herald)

Shira Maydwell, 9, Dawn Schweihofer and Kendall Urie, 10, run laps around Cleveland Elementary School. (Jeffrey Smith | Times Herald)

“I know that we want to be able to reach well beyond the Blue Water Area,” Schweihofer said. “We hope it can become a statewide thing, but we want to promote this area for now.”

The fund’s first effort will take place in conjunction with Marysville High School’s Pi Day 5K on March 14 — a 1.57-mile run coordinated by Shigley. Running club students who participate in the fun run won’t pay their entry fee and will be sponsored by donations collected by the running fund.

“We are going to take those donations and use them to sponsor entries into the 1.57-mile fun run for running club students from Cleveland Elementary and Woodrow Wilson Elementary,” Shigley said. “Depending on how much money we receive in donations, we’d like to be able to offer entries to other clubs in the area.”

The running club at Cleveland Elementary will be one of the first to benefit from the fund. Cleveland has the only Port Huron-based running club that begins running in January, Schweihofer said.

With snow on the ground, students ran four laps around the school’s perimeter to accumulate their weekly mile.

“It just means the entire running community has embraced these kids and realized there is more to them than just a statistic,” Schweihofer said. “They invest in more than what they are doing in that moment. It means they want to be part of their future success.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at (810) 989-6270 or Follow him on Twitter @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Jan. 27, 2015)


St. Clair County Community Foundation welcomes four new trustees

By Tony Wittkowski | City Reporter | The Times Herald

The Community Foundation of St. Clair County has selected four trustees after saying goodbye to five others.

Janal Mossett, Michael Wendling, Gerry Kramer and Don Fletcher were named to the 27-person board Tuesday.

The Community Foundation has $50 million in assets and manages multiple endowment funds. The foundation was created in 1944.

It is one of the largest philanthropic organizations in the Thumb.

Beth Belanger, Connie Harrison, Tom Hunter, Chuck Kelly and Chuck Wanninger recently stepped down from the board. Wanninger’s departure was unexpected, resulting in a vacancy remaining on the board.

“We have an opening, and our governance committee will look to fill that seat by mid-2015,” said Randy Maiers, the foundation’s chief executive officer and president. “Our target is to have 27 board members, but from time to time we do have vacancies.”

All trustees must go through a screening and recruitment process before they are considered a candidate, Maiers said. They must also have served on a committee within the foundation.

Donna Niester, the board chairwoman, said it isn’t odd to see that many trustees leave at one time due to the nine-year limit a member can serve.

“We had an extra one leave because someone retired,” Niester said. “Normally, it’s three to four trustees, but one of them will be moving out of the area.”

While two former trustees are returning, Maiers said the limit only applies to those who serve nine consecutive years. Board members who leave can come back as trustees.

Unless a trustee asks to be retired, he or she is not removed from future consideration.

Kramer and Fletcher both previously served on the board. Fletcher was a trustee from 1999 to 2012 and was chairman from 2010 to 2012. Kramer served on the board from 2001 to 2013.

Niester said there will be an orientation period to help the new trustees.

Wendling, who is the county prosecutor, said he has been involved with the foundation’s grants committee for about a year and looks forward to his new role as a trustee.

With an official start date in January, Wendling said he first heard he was being considered a month ago. Soon after, Wendling was nominated to the governance committee.

“I know they have a lot of projects, and I’m excited to get up to date on those projects and help them reach their goal,” Wendling said. “It’s a tremendous vote of confidence and a great opportunity to assist in the success in the Blue Water Area.”

Mossett has been involved with the foundation in other capacities in the past as well. A lawyer, she is the chairwoman of the Women’s Initiative Steering Committee.

“It’s something I had hoped would happen at some point because of how I feel about the Community Foundation,” Mossett said. “I didn’t hesitate when Randy (Maiers) and Donna (Niester) asked whether I would be interested in serving in that capacity. It is something that I had obviously hoped for.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at (810) 989-6270 or Follow him on Twitter @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Dec. 19, 2014)