Ready to join the Human Race?
In 1981, the Volunteer Bureau in Fresno launched the Human Race, a 20-kilometer walk-a-thon that started and ended at Courthouse Park in downtown Fresno. The event raised money for local nonprofit organizations and called attention to the importance of volunteerism. But, after just two years, the Human Race ended.
"It was too long -- almost a half-marathon," says Franz Weinschenk, Human Race director in 1981 and '82.
Thirty years later, HandsOn Central California in Fresno, a nonprofit volunteer organization that replaced the Volunteer Bureau in 2008, is resurrecting the Human Race with some tweaks.
Human Race 2012 and Festival, scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 9 at Eaton Plaza in downtown Fresno, is giving participants a choice -- a 5-kilometer run and walk that is just for fun, or a 10-kilometer timed race that is competitive. The purpose remains the same: To raise money for local nonprofit organizations and promote volunteerism.
"We think it's cool -- to bring back a piece of history," says Cathy Caples, executive director of HandsOn Central California, which serves Fresno, Madera, Tulare and Kings counties. The organization helped connect 14,751 volunteers to 551 organizations last year.
Twenty-eight nonprofit organizations are signed up for Human Race 2012. Many are forming teams, whose members are raising financial pledges for their organizations. They include Community Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity Fresno County and Angels of Grace ministry. Lifebridge Community Church also is entering a team.
Caples hopes Human Race 2012 reaches 1,000 participants ("Our dream number," she says.) and raises about $1,000 for each organization.
Human Race 2012 also is being held in conjunction with 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance, when tens of thousands of volunteers across the United States perform service projects, such as cleaning up neighborhoods or supporting veterans and first responders.
Caples also hopes Human Race 2012 has about 350 volunteers. The event needs people to help set up barriers to block off streets, to register participants the day of the event, to hand out bottles of water and to cheer on the participants.
In 1981, the Volunteer Bureau in Fresno was one of 16 organizations in California launching Human Race fundraiser events. Many others also came to an end after several years. Some have continued and are successful, including the Sonoma County Human Race.
"Participants dress up in that race and have fun," Caples says. "We hope that happens here."
Nicole Traverso, volunteer connections director with HandsOn Central California, says it is important that the community supports nonprofit organizations that address people's needs and work to enhance life in the Valley.
"We have so many issues here -- hunger, poverty, domestic violence -- that people can get behind and support," she says.
Cost is $20, including a T-shirt. Registration is available at www.handsoncentralcal.org. On the day of the event, cost is $30. Details: (559) 237-3101.