“We didn’t tell anyone. And the reaction from people is a little bit of surprise, but then they smile and they laugh, and many of them have stopped and talked to us about their experiences with our weekend of events,” said Amanda Secor, chief of staff for Community First Credit Union, the title sponsor and managing entity of the Fox Cities Marathon. “It’s been a great way to make personal connections and do what we love to do on marathon Sunday.”
The activity was planned to connect with the community to share that they are missed and to recognize what would have been marathon Sunday. About 25 volunteers in two shifts masked up and spread out to cheer and offer signs of encouragement on the Newberry Trail along the Fox River in Appleton, the CE Trail near the Heart of the Valley YMCA in Kimberly and the Loop the Lake Trail system in Neenah, Menasha and Fox Crossing. All are popular recreational trails in the Fox Cities that are featured as part of the marathon course.
“It was a great way to start my Sunday morning. Even though masks obscured the smiles, the joy was palpable,” said Rose Kilsdonk, a volunteer stationed at Fritse Park in Fox Crossing. “The whole pop-up idea was a great way to safely connect with people as they interacted with each other and nature.”
Community First Fox Cities Marathon Board Member Dr. Jennifer Steinhoff, took in the morning as a runner and volunteer.
“It was fun to run by and get words of encouragement and see the signs. It reminded me of racing,” she said. “When I was cheering, the most common response was being asked if there was a race going on or why we were out cheering. It gave us the opportunity to explain the situation. It was great to see people out exercising and to make people smile.”
Several runners stopped to share stories when they realized the cheering was from Community First Fox Cities Marathon volunteers.
“We knew some of our most faithful participants would be out running to honor the day because that’s just what they do,” said Tara Perre, Race Director of the Community First Fox Cities Marathon. “Surprising them was priceless. It was a great way to show we miss them and can’t wait to cheer everyone on at the celebration of our 30th running of the Community First Fox Cities Marathon next September.”