Santa Run creator starts a 5K for veterans

CRYSTAL LAKE – From Santas to soldiers, Mike Splitt is always ready to run for a cause.

The man who organized the popular annual Kiwanis Santa Run for Kids will debut a new 5K this summer to support local veterans. The inaugural McHenry County Patriot Run will take place June 22 at McHenry County College at 8900 Route 14 in Crystal Lake.

The event – scheduled to start at 7:30 a.m. – will support the McHenry County Veterans Assistance Commission and the McHenry County Transitional Living Services, which provides veterans with shelter, food and employment assistance.

Splitt said he was inspired to start a 5K to help veterans after finding there were no other Patriot Run events in the region. After a longtime 5K pulled out of the June 22 slot, Splitt said he saw an opportunity and now hopes to hold the event each year on the fourth Sunday in June.

“We have a huge amount of feedback. Companies are calling me to help,” Splitt said of the support, noting there are 14 sponsors including BMO Harris Bank, Centegra Health System and McHenry County College. “There is going to be a lot of patriotism and it works great being right before the Fourth of July.”

A $10,000 goal was the initial mark, Splitt said, until all the interest spurred organizers to raise the goal to $30,000.

Splitt said the event would be festive with a 20-foot inflatable Uncle Sam on site and T-shirts with a running Uncle Sam logo designed by a McHenry County College student to be distributed to each participant.

Roughly 350 Honor Flags will be displayed in a symmetrical line, each bearing the name of a fallen soldier. Volunteers will stand watch at the display starting Friday when it goes up and even sleep in tents next to it until the event starts.

Registration is $35 for the 5K and $15 for the 1-mile course. All proceeds go directly to the two veterans organizations.

“I have a feeling this is going to get bigger than the Santa event,” Splitt said. “There is nothing like it in the state and we have so many big companies with veterans. People really want to do more for the people protecting our country.”

Matt Fetrow, a Marine who served from 2009 to 2013 and is now an employee with the assistance commission, said it has been amazing to see the event come together and the support that has been shown.

As he is still adjusting to life outside of the Marines, he said it is good to know that people and companies in McHenry County serve those who served for them.

“It has been great working on the committee for this event and seeing the passion for our veterans in the community,” Fetrow said. “We already surpassed our initial goal for fundraising, so it’s been phenomenal.”

For more information on the event or to register, visit www.mchenrycountypatriotrun.org.

If you go

What: McHenry County Patriot Run

When: 7:30 a.m. June 22

Where: McHenry County College, 8900 Route 14 in Crystal Lake

Cost: $35 for 5K course, $15 for 1-mile course

Why: All proceeds benefit the McHenry County Veterans Assistance Commission and the McHenry County Transitional Living Services.

To register: Visit www.mchenrycountypatriotrun.org.

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