Runners raise money to benefit families of deployed Vermont soldiers

runners prepareQ. What has 120 legs and can run 68 miles per hour?

A. Sixty Norwich students, faculty, and staff raising money for the families of Vermont Guardsmen and Reservists.

At 5:00 p.m. on Friday, October 7, twelve relay teams consisting of 1-4 runners apiece began a six-hour "marathon relay" around the UP to benefit the The Vermont Military Family Assistance Fund (VMFAF) -- a non-profit 501c(3) fund established in 1990 to provide emergency assistance to the families of any mobilized service members. The VMFAF relies totally on donations and serves all soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines.

Brigadier General Michael Kelley, VP for Student Affairs, spoke at the opening ceremony.

“What you came here to do today not only contributes financially to a worthy cause, it also draws attention to the extraordinary sacrifices these military families are making on our behalf,” Kelley said. “Though you may not think you know any of these soldiers or their family members personally, Vermont is a very small state, and these people are your neighbors, your colleagues, and, in some cases, your classmates. We are proud of them, and we are proud of you.”

According to Army Times, forty percent of US soldiers in Iraq are members of the National Guard and Reserves. Today, the Vermont National Guard numbers around 4,000 men and women, divided between the Army and Air National Guard. The state, with its 600,000 people, has one of the highest Guard per capita participation rates of any state in the country -- and has some of the highest casualties per capita than any other state in the country.

Norwich History Professor Rowly Brucken, co-organizer of the event, said that many entrants were inspired to push themselves to run greater distances for the good of the cause.

“Many runners I talked to ran more than they ever had before, which was very heartening and spoke to the twin purposes of the event: to raise money for a good cause and to challenge people to go beyond their perceived limits of fitness,” Brucken said.

Competition for first place was extremely keen, with the top three teams finishing within 1.4 miles of each other. Team NROTC garnered first place honors, covering a total distance of 57.7 miles. Team Army placed second with 57 miles, and Team Golf finished third with 56.3 miles. Rounding out the field were: Foxtrot Frenzy ’07, 47 miles; RRTC Ramblers, 45 miles; Rowly Brucken, 44 miles; NU Cross-Country, 35.3 miles; Ben Reilly, 31 miles; Ray Zirblis, 31 miles; Evan Spaulding, 18.5 miles; Education Club II, 5 miles; and Education Club I, 4 miles.

The 60 participants, who ran a total of 409.8 miles in all, were rewarded with prizes and pizza, the latter courtesy of the Office of Student Affairs. Other key contributors included BG Michael Kelley, Facilities Operations, the Office of Volunteer Programs, the Office of Student Affairs, Sodexho, Sarducci’s, and the Savoy Theater (who donated prizes for the winning team).

Brucken and fellow organizer Ray Zirblis were encouraged by the overall success of the event, which raised $550 for the Family Assistance Fund.

“Ray and I anticipate that this will become an annual event,” Brucken said.