Running with a purpose

By Daniel P. Smith | Contributor
Sunday, October 9, 2011

A former parishioner warned Father Robert Schultz he’d get the marathon bug.

A runner for the last eight years, the pastor at St. Beatrice in Schiller Park is tackling the hearty distance for the first time at the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon on Oct. 9.

While traversing 26.2 miles of pavement is challenging in itself, Schultz added another trial to the endeavor: raising up to $5,000 to repair the heating system at St. Beatrice School. Though the school closed in 2009, the building remains an active host to parish activities.

“You only get one chance to run your first marathon, so I thought I might as well tell people about it,” Schultz said. “Being able to pair this effort with a much-needed parish cause makes it extra special.”

The Chicago Marathon is the largest fundraising day in Chicago. In 2010, more than 10,000 charity runners raised more than $12 million for 160 local, national and international causes. The marathon’s formal charity program has raised more than $70 million since 2002 .

At the 2011 Chicago Marathon, Catholic Charities will field its first team with 68 runners. Aiming to raise $75,000 after surpassing its initial $50,000 goal, all fundraising dollars will go to the Neighbors in Need Fund, a catch-all fund that allows Catholic Charities to support any of its 159 programs.

“The marathon team is allowing different people another avenue to get involved with Catholic Charities and another way to give back,” Catholic Charities event coordinator Ashley Owen said.

Running for causes

Deborah Bottjer is running in support of Maryville Academy in Des Plaines. The Chicago resident and mother of one attempted to run the 26.2-mile race last year on behalf of Maryville before a stress fracture halted her physical adventure. In the process, however, she raised $3,000 for the organization.

Motivated by a sense of unfinished business, Bottjer’s journey to the Grant Park starting line in 2011 coincides with another $3,000 fundraising goal, money that will help Maryville continue its child- and family- centric mission.

“Maryville is a place that means a lot to me,” said Bottjer, a member of Maryville’s advisory board. “What I’m going through to train for the marathon is challenging, but nothing compared to what Maryville families endure.”

Sister Stephanie Baliga is among the leaders of the 13-member marathon squad supporting the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels, 3808 W. Iowa St. The group aims to raise $10,000 toward a $2.2 million church renovation, of which $40,000 remains. “We’re excited to be taking a chunk of this with our marathon fundraising and generating this exposure for our cause,” Baliga said.

Baliga and her crew will join 45,000 registered runners from all 50 states and 109 countries on the course, one lined by an estimated 1.7 million spectators.

Personal connections

To get his fundraising efforts underway, Schultz distributed an announcement to friends, family and parishioners at his former stops, St. Paul of the Cross in Park Ridge and St. Joseph in Wilmette. He received checks with well wishes, an outpouring of support that touched his soul.

“I was hoping the effort would take off and it did,” Schultz said. “It’s rewarding that people are supporting me as I tackle this personal goal, but that the parish community will benefit from this as well.”

Yet, Schultz admits a few people are waiting to see him finish before committing their money to his cause.

“That’s their way of keeping me honest,” Schultz joked, “but it’s good to know there will be rewards waiting on the other side of the finish line.”