'Heroes' come out for McHenry County Human Race

McHENRY – With a cape of a soft, puzzle-piece patterned fabric and a shield made of bubble wrap, Julie Snave transformed Sunday into the Crusader for Autism.

Snave, of Crystal Lake, walked along Corporate Drive in McHenry as part of the McHenry County Human Race, one of the largest 5K run/walks in the area. This year’s theme was “heroes,” with Batman, Superman and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – two of whom wore tutus – in the crowd with Snave.

The race drew more than 1,000 runners, plus more than 100 volunteers despite overcast skies and blustery winds. It was the fourth year, with previous years raising more than $222,000, said Rebecca Stiemke, executive director of Volunteer Center McHenry County.

The race is unique in that nonprofits serving the county can sign up to receive a portion of the proceeds, and participants can designate which organization they would like their money to support. This year, 59 nonprofits signed up.

Snave walked on behalf of her 26-year-old son, Eric, who is on the autism spectrum, and for a school that wasn't available when he was young: the Alexander Leigh Center for Autism.

"It's not just one person; it's not just one thing. It is a community. Without family support and neighbors, it would have been far more of a struggle,” she said.

The bubble-wrap shield was inspired by her son's use of the packing material when he was younger as part of his therapy. He would drive them crazy, Snave said, but popping it helped with his hand-eye coordination.

"We had to knock in the door, we had to bang on the door, and sometimes we had to crash through the door,” Snave said. “But as long as we opened the door, it was Eric who rose to the top and showed the world what he was capable of."

Kathrine Violett, director of development and marketing for the Alexander Leigh Center, was appreciative of the Volunteer Center for organizing the event that helps other charitable organizations get their name out and fundraise.

"There are a lot of details that go into a race and people get pretty serious about their times,” Violett said. “It's an opportunity to get in front of a huge audience of people who are really committed to exercising or to social justice and service.”

Timothy Linehan of Woodstock participated last year, supporting Big Brothers Big Sisters. This year, his support went to the Special Olympics, and he brought along his son, 7-year-old Ian.

“I think what we enjoyed most was the sense of community,” Linehan said. “It’s for all ages, there’s lot of people with costumes, and everyone cheered everybody on.”

Donations still are being accepted and can be made by contacting Stiemke at 815-344-4483 or visiting mchumanrace.org