EVERYBODY'S DOING IT WALKING FOR CHARITY Go race for a cause: It's that time of year
It's a sure sign of spring : packs of walkers and runners filling downtown streets to raise money and awareness for local notfor-profits.
April opens the charity walk season, calling attention to causes ranging from cancer research to homelessness.
Most of the races are 5Ks, traversing 3.1-mile routes in or near downtown. The relatively short distance and flat terrain make the events a great way to get started walking or running, said Marcia Gascho, a board member of the Indy Runners club.
But she cautions some of the more popular events, such as breast-cancer fund raiser Race for the Cure, can be crowded.
For most participants, these are fitness events and not really races. So Gascho encourages people to be prepared for a slower pace and lots of families.
"They are moving parties because there is lots of excitement and energy around them," said Gascho, 53. "And they are for good causes."
Race for the Cure is in fact the grandmother of charity races in Indianapolis. The April 21 event has been a downtown fixture since 1992. It is part of a network of nationwide events to support the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
An estimated 35,000 runners and walkers are expected this year, said Dana Curish, executive director of the Indianapolis Komen affiliate. In 2006, the event raised more than $1.6 million.
More than 70 percent of Race for the Cure participants register as part of a team, Curish said. Many teams are families of women with breast cancer or the loved ones of women who have died of the disease. Others are book groups or teams of neighbors or co-workers.
The biggest team for the Indianapolis race comes from Clarian Health, the hospital network. Team Clarian, as it is known, has registered 5,632 walkers and runners this year.
Though there's a sameness to many events, some are intentionally different.
This is the fourth year for the Humane Society of Indianapolis' charity walk: Mutt Strut, scheduled for April 29 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The event raises money to care for unwanted animals and help them find new homes.
Walkers gather at the Brickyard and take one 2.5-mile lap around the track. Participants are encouraged to bring their pets and many do, said Alison Billings, special events coordinator for HSI.
Last year, the event raised $158,000 and attracted more than 1,500 walkers.
"We're unique in that we aren't a race," she said. "This is a day for you and your pet to ... take a leisurely stroll around this historic Indianapolis landmark. We've even had a few humans join their pets in getting down on all fours at the finish line to kiss the bricks."