Ashland Rotary Run raises money to fight polio

After reaching the finish line at the Ashland Rotary Run in the 10K men's division on Oct. 3, Ashland High School Athletic Director Karl Kemper was feeling pretty good. He downed a plate of hot pancakes and orange juice with a large crowd of runners and walkers at Lithia Park's Bandshell.

The 43-year-old Kemper, who runs an average of five times a week, came in first place in the men's 40-45-year-old division.

"It was a great cause for Polio Plus and neat to partner with Ashland Rotary as volunteers from the AHS athletic department," Kember said.

Karl said he was proud that lining the 6.2 mile run were Grizzly football players and cheerleaders, some 40 students, in uniforms directing, cheering and stopping traffic along the route.

"It was a really fun group of people of all ages, great energy and a beautiful course. I try to teach and model an active lifestyle, and I think the students were surprised to see this old dog doing so well on the course," he said.

Rotary Run weekend kicked off at the AHS football pre-game coaches-player's talk, when a special guest arrived. NFL pro bowler and recently retired fullback Mack Strong of the Seattle Seahawks was there to give a locker room pep talk.

"It is important to give your best, not only as an individual, but think team and you'll be a winner," Mack said. "It is a lesson you will take with you in life."

The Grizzlies went on to win the Homecoming game 24-7 against Springfield High at Walter Phillips Stadium.

Rotarian race director Rob Skinner's personal relationship with Strong helped bring Strong from Seattle to be the Rotary Run kick-off guest of honor. On Saturday Strong pulled the trigger for the start and then filed in to complete the 5k run saying, "I may not be as fast or in the shape I once was in the NFL, but I get a lot of practice running around these days chasing my two boys. It's a pleasure getting to know the people of Ashland and the Rogue Valley. I think I'll be back and bring my family."

The race goal was to register at least 100 runners and walkers. By race time more than 170 registered and with business sponsors and entries, more than $13,500 was raised for Rotary International's world-wide effort to eradicate polio. Funds will be matched by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

"It was a huge success and a great way to have fun while making an impact on our world at large for better health," Skinner said.

Race results and times for the 5K can be seen at http://ashlandrotaryrun.com/4.html. 10K results can be found at the Web site: http://ashlandrotaryrun.com/1.html.

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