ALTON — East Alton-Wood River track coach Russ Colona has spent more than 40 years coaching and encouraging children to keep moving.
Celebrating 38 years of the Alton Road Runners Pee Wee Run, Colona calls the annual event an opportunity for family togetherness.
More than 120 children age 14 and younger lined up at Gordon F. Moore Park on July 10 for a morning of fun and prizes.
“It’s great to see families come out and participate together in events like this,” Colona said. “What’s amazing is we see adults who participated in these runs when they were kids come back and bring their children to participate. We’re seeing our second generation come through, and that’s a great thing to be a part of and it’s even better for our community.”
The club has been organizing running events for nearly four decades, and the events continue to draw crowds as the program continues to grow.
“My wife, Kathy, and I have ran the Pee Wee Run for the last 33 years,” Colona said. “We are also celebrating 20 years of the Summer Series. Along with the Pee Wee Run, we added the Dash-n-Splash and the Alton Memorial Family Run to make it a three-run series. We have the same great people helping every year.”
Sponsors such as the Wood River Aquatic Center, Alton Memorial Hospital and Hit-N-Run have chipped in time, volunteers and money toward the Summer Series to keep participants’ costs to a minimum. Prizes such as bikes, sports equipment and toys to encourage outdoor play and exercise were donated so each child can take home an item.
“Hit-N-Run has been a sponsor since the very beginning,” Colona said. “I looked at the prizes they brought and it’s almost like Christmas in July for these kids. The Road Runners Club chips in about $3,000 for the summer events and we only charge participants around $5 to register. We see our contribution as giving back to our communities. Our sponsors really help a lot and we appreciate their involvement every year.”
Hit-N-Run employees volunteer their time to seek prize donations from area vendors as well as make monetary donations to buy prizes for participants and provide T-shirts to runners.
“Hit-N-Run is thrilled to team up with Russ Colona and the Alton Road Runners for our 38th year of the Pee Wee Run,” Hit-N-Run main office employee Karla Goodnight said. “We have six area locations with one in Wood River, Bethalto, East Alton and Granite City as well as two locations in Alton. What’s amazing is that in 38 years, we’ve never had a rain-out for this run. We love to be a part of things like this and see the kids take home a prize. There are not too many things like this in the area where every kid takes home a prize. We’re happy to be a part of that.”
The 2016 Summer Series wraps up with the 21st annual Dash-n-Splash on Sunday, July 31, with age groups ranging from 14 and under, 15-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49 and 50 and up. Registration begins at 3:30 p.m. with a start time of 5 p.m. Participants are invited for a swim party from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Wood River Aquatic Center. For information, call (618) 972-8635.