Why I’m Participating for United Way

I am participating in the 5k walk to hopefully help spread the United Way mission and get some excitement around United Way other than at campaign time.  My personal goal was to get at least 5 others to join me and I believe I have accomplished that.  Several other Flexco employees will be participating in the walk or run that day as part of United Way.  There are many ways to “Live United” and the River Bank Run is one way to spread the word.

Nancy Ayres, United Way Campaign Cabinet Member

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An Open Letter from our Alzheimer’s Association Colleagues in Boston

The Alzheimer’s Association has local Chapters across the Nation providing vital programs and services in the community.  While the Alzheimer’s Association’s role with the Fifth Third River Bank Run is new this year, our partnership with the Chicago and Boston Marathons, dates back many years.  These events, along with many other races throughout the U.S. has helped raised awareness and vital funds for our mission.

We wanted to share with you an email that was sent to us from our sister chapter in Boston.  Their spirit is strong and together, we will continue to run and raise awareness and funds for the fight against Alzheimer’s!

Dear colleagues,

As the immediate crisis in the greater Boston area has come to a conclusion, I want to extend appreciation on behalf of our staff and volunteers for the many expressions of concern we have received through the week from chapters throughout the country and from our national staff.
This has been a tragic and trying week, both here in Massachusetts and for our colleagues in Texas.
As some of you may know, our MA/NH Chapter was quite active in Monday’s Boston Marathon. We had a 27 member running team and approximately 200 volunteers and staff along the route. Although we had some very close calls, none of our athletes, volunteers or family members were physically injured in the terrorist attacks. Tragically, this was not true for everyone; three spectators lost their lives and nearly 200 others were injured, some quite seriously. Our hearts go out to all the victims of this weeks attacks.
Our chapter staff was extremely poised and focused after the explosions. We quickly implemented a thorough effort to make contact with each runner. With cell service shut down in Boston and much chaos at the finish line, this was very challenging. It wasn’t until early Tuesday morning that we knew all of our athletes were safe.
We spent the week working our way through a recovery process until Friday and the day long pursuit and capture of the two suspects. The town of Watertown, a suburb of Boston and the location of our central office was on lock down all day. With some quick work early Friday morning, we were able to reach all of our staff and instruct them to stay home.
Yesterday was a very long day in metropolitan Boston. Once again the events touched us personally. The husband of one of our staff was among the law enforcement officers who was part of yesterday’s action. We were all relieved to learn that he returned home safely.
Boston is a great and beautiful city. It is inspiring to see how such a traumatic series of events can unite the residents of this region. We look forward to welcoming many of you in mid July as AAIC comes to Boston.
In the wake of this ongoing crisis it is easy to forget that we had 27 athletes who trained through one of our coldest and wettest winters to compete in our Boston Marathon. They wore their Alzheimer’s Association singlets proudly, were spurred on by over 500,000 cheering spectators  and raised a record amount of funds to support our mission. All week these impressive athletes have been exchanging emails, offering support to one another and pledging to “Run Boston” again next year.
I want to share excerpts of the remarks from one of our runners (with his permission), written the day after the Marathon. Like many of our runners he was unable to finish the race because the Marathon was shut down after the blasts. But he felt compelled to complete the remaining 1.4 miles of his marathon. This is from Ted:

I set out to finish the 26.2 miles yesterday.  I did it on my street, and I did it in my Alzheimer’s singlet with my number still attached.  We set out on this journey with the Association, joining in its mission to end Alzheimer’s, to finish the job.  This team is amazing because of the many different voices and personalities but the similar determination of its members.  I think we should all try to finish the job.  If you didn’t get to 26.2, give it a shot when the body allows – rock that purple singlet like you’ve never rocked it before – and show the people who drive by looking at you funny and wondering what race you veered off course from that your commitment to this cause knows no embarrassment.  It helped me close the book on what was otherwise an amazing training and fundraising year getting to know a remarkable group of people.

Thank you all for your commitment, your friendship, and your inspiration.  Soon I’ll remember those things much more than the evil that happened on Boylston Street.    Peace,Teddy

Jim Wessler
President & CEO
Alzheimer’s Association®, Massachusetts/New Hampshire Chapter
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A reason to run

Paws With A Cause Spokesperson Kim Virden and her Service Dog Karma will be on hand for the Fifth Third River Bank Run! While Karma usually joins Kim during her training runs, Karma will wait for Kim in the Paws With A Cause Charity Plaza tent, while Kim finishes the 10K on May 11.

Kim and Karma make a great PAWS Team! Karma was custom trained for Kim as a Seizure Response Dog by PAWS. Kim was involved in a downhill skiing accident when she was 17 and had to learn how to walk and talk again. Memories of the first seventeen years of her life were erased ~ she had to learn how to learn again.

As a result of Kim’s traumatic brain injury from the accident, Kim developed epilepsy. An avid athlete when she was younger, she became even more involved in athletics, as a way to ‘get a piece of mind’. Kim began running after she retired from bike racing in the summer of 1997 because she wanted to do marathons. She is the founding member of the Achilles Sports Team in Madison, Wisconsin and trains and competes with some great athletes with disabilities, making lifetime friendships. A turning point for Kim came when she lost a close friend of hers who had a seizure during his sleep and suffocated in his pillow. Kim said “I have to do something, so I’m not next.”

Enter Karma. As a Seizure Response Dog, Karma is trained to push a medical alert button to summon help when Kim has a seizure. Having a trained Assistance Dog in her life allows Kim the freedom to travel and compete as an athlete, without worrying about what would happen if she has a seizure. She knows Karma is there for her.

When asked about her love for running, Kim says “I love to run because it’s quiet. I get piece of mind with little distractions – just enjoying the beautiful scenery, sunshine and sights. Best of all, I get time to think about all my problems. While running I’m in such a peaceful world…I love it!!”

Kim and Karma were asked to be a SpokesTeam for PAWS because they are the perfect example of independence ~ they have the freedom to do what they want because of their teamwork in living with epilepsy.

“I’m supporting PAWS and doing this year’s run because it involves two things I dearly love: running and my Service Dog Karma. I feel it’s important to give back in life when someone or something has been given to you and changed your life. My PAWS Service Dog has made such a positive change in my life, keeping me safe and giving me freedom to live a long and healthy life. Being a SpokesTeam for this event is my way of “Paying It Forward”. We will be involved in making a “difference” for others and running in a great race ~ all in one incredible day!”

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Why I’m Participating for United Way

I’m running the 5k Riverbank Run to show my commitment and support of the United Way’s Volunteer Center. The United Way does amazing work in the community and the Volunteer Center provides opportunities for everyone in that community to get involved. The Volunteer Center also supports nonprofit organizations in a way not many other programs like theirs does. The Volunteer Center staff are committed to helping all organizations take their volunteer efforts to the most ultimate level.

I’m also running for my family. My husband and I made a strong commitment after our son Eli was born to live a healthy, active lifestyle. Our lifestyle now includes an all real, non-processed food diet. My husband has already taken the active part to the next level with running himself and now it’s my turn to step it up. I’m hoping the race can provide me the opportunity to jump start a running and more active lifestyle for myself. We hope to teach our son to respect his body, what types of food go into and living an otherwise healthy and active lifestyle.

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Running Masacre Resonates.

The tragedy in Boston yesterday has everyone startled. Left speechless. How were these runners to know that running for a good cause would be a risk for their lives? How were they to know that they would be a target that day?

Questions. Does this effect every public race from now on? Will this event now sway peoples decision in whether or not to participate? Will YOU still run in this years River Bank Run?

In an article from USA Today, Cindy Rhodes says, “I’m looking forward to getting back to the routine again.”

Meanwhile, former Okanagan-Coquihalla MP Stockwell Day was supposed to be at the race, but cancelled due to an injury.

He tweeted to followers: “Bostonians and runners need our prayers. So Heartbreaking. Thank u 2 many asking about me. Was supposed 2 B in it, but cancelled out this year.”

He also encouraged runners to not be discouraged by the attack, tweeting: “All Boston runners! Let’s train hard to qualify for Boston in ’14 in memory of victims, (and) defy coward killers who want us to live in fear.”

Same goes for Michigan runners and to all who come out to run in the 5/3 River Bank Run. Don’t be discouraged. Run for a cause!

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United Way Achieves Partner Status with Partners for a Racism Free Community

We are proud to announce that we have achieved Full Partner Status with the Partners for a Racism Free Community (PRFC). Joining seven other Full Partner Kent County organizations, we have shown evidence of fulfilling the basic requirements of all six categories of PRFC standards. These standards cover topics areas such as leadership engagement, internal policies, external collaborators, and client practices.

Achieving part one of our Organizational Assessment and Credentialing is a significant milestone and natural progression for Heart of West Michgian United Way on our organizational journey toward a racism free community and workplace. This is a by no means a destination, but a natural step along our journey  to deepen our understanding of ,and to demonstrate, racism free practice in organizational and community life.

PRFC Partners are organizations that have gone through a process of self-evaluation and assessment based on six target areas called standards and have successfully met the criterion to be considered actively working to create a racism-free organization. PRFC envisions a community of compassion and justice, promoting racial harmony, where everyone feels welcomed and wanted and has the opportunity to participate. United Way’s next phase of their journey will be achieving Credentialed Partner status.

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Why I’m Participating for United Way

“Running … or should I say – walking – in the Fifth Third River Bank Run is a great opportunity to visibly show my support of United Way, fitness and one of our significant corporate partners, Fifth Third Bank.  The event symbolizes to me the energy, cohesiveness and endurance that it takes to create positive change in a community.  Creating a positive change in people’s lives is what United Way is about – we work to help our youth graduate from high school, provide critical services so that families and individuals have the mean to meet their basic needs and have adequate resources for good health.

United Way needs creative energy (volunteer time, people’s money or voice) working together in a cohesive manner with great endurance since the community needs are complicated.

I am looking forward to running – walking – in this event and I hope many others will join me in supporting the River Bank Run and United Way!”

Maureen Noe, President/CEO at Heart of West Michigan United Way

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Fight hunger where you’re at.

Here are some simple ways to get involved in the fight against hunger:

  1. Get to know your local food pantry.Find the one closest to your house and contact them to take a pantry tour, volunteer, donate and build a relationship with them.
  2. Watch a documentary on hunger. We recommend A Place at the Table which was released in 2013. This film shows us how hunger poses serious economic, social and cultural implications for our nation.
  3. Grow something.  Grow and donate produce from your garden this summer. Fresh fruit and vegetables are one of the hardest things to keep in stock at pantries.
  4. Read a book on domestic hunger and poverty issues. We recommend these to start: All You Can Eat: How Hungry is America?  by Joel Berg or Make Poverty Personal by Ash Barker.
  5. Teach your kids about hunger.  Take your kids to the store and ask them to pick out items to donate to your local pantry. Watch Sesame Street’s special episode on hunger entitled Growing Hope Against Hunger. Read French Toast for Maleek, an illustrated children’s book on hunger published by our friends at UCOM.
  6. Learn more about hunger. Spend some time perusing our website for more information about hunger on a local and national level. We would also recommend Bread for the World, FRAC and Half in Ten.

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March Madness

It’s was a wild month of March with Team CLC! And, we’re ready for more fun in April.

  • We hit the ground running on March 9th by joining  Grand Rapids Running Club for their annual  benefit  run at Robinette’s.  On April 6th at 8:00am, we’ll be joining them again for the GRRC Prediction Fun Run at John Ball Zoo. This is a run with a twist – runners predict their finish time for the 2 mile or 4 mile course and the winner is the one who finishes closest to their predicted time (no timing devices allowed on course). Bring $4 and a smiling face to sign up! If you need to put in additional miles to round out your training, stick around – the GRRC Mentor Group is going back out for up to 11 miles in total and everyone is welcome!
  • Derby Station, Senator David Hildenbrand and Representative Peter MacGregor hosted a Guest Bartender Night on March 13th to benefit  Team CLC. Everyone had a blast and over $1,600 was raised for the “Champion A Child” scholarship fund at CLC. A huge thank you to everyone who helped pull it off!

Senator Hildenbrand and Representative MacGregor

CLC students Johnny and Sarah with CLC Road Warrior Adam








  • The Team got into ‘Good Form’ at Gazelle Sports on March 14th by participating in their Good Form Running Clinic. If you’ve never done this free clinic – you should. The technique can do wonders for your running performance and keep you injury-free. Even Dakota, a CLC student got in on the action, putting all of us to shame by completing a few laps around the store with his walker.  Way to go, Dakota!

CLC's Dakota lapped us all at the Good Form Running Clinic

  • In the midst of all of this fun, our Team CLC gear arrived and we are ready to reward all of our runners and walkers! From head to toe – we’ve got it all.

This running gear can be yours when you join Team CLC!


  • Running 101 on March 20thwas a hit with our new and experienced runners alike. Mike Wojciakowski (“Coach Woj”), Aquinas College Cross Country Coach and Assistant Track Coach, talked us through his tips on proper gear, form, race day, nutrition, training calendar and more.

    Coah Woj shares his top tips with Team CLC

Coach suggested a host of easy strengthening routines to add to our workouts – you can check out these videos too!

Myrtle http://youtube.com/watch?v=2GLrKr54yA0
Pedestal http://youtube.com/watch?v=xS8jhZq1pJo
Advanced Pedestal http://flotrack.org/videos/play/24613
Core 2.0 http://flotrack.org/speaker/2181-reiff-ralph/video

  • Getting out and about once again, we all met up on March 27th at Buffalo Wild Wings in downtown Grand Rapids for a social fundraiser hosted by the Fifth Third River Bank Run committee. Another $350 was raised for the “Champion A Child” scholarship fund. It was great to connect with the CLC Road Warriors, Adam and Jennifer, local media, friends and supporters.





  • It’s not too late to join the fun! You can still join Team CLC  –  even if you are already registered for the race. Just email quick note to info@conductivelearningcenter.org and let us know you’d like to help. We’ll get you connected.
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Running advice.

Recently, we asked some of our seasoned runners to offer some advice to other runners on our team to encourage those who are just starting out and offer a friendly reminder to those who need a kick-start to training.  Here are just a few…

Get the right shoes for your feet.  Places like Gazelle will watch your stride and help you get the right kind for your stride. ~Jesica

Don’t be afraid to walk! I’ve run a marathon and several half marathons and have stopped to walk a few times in each race.  Taking a break to walk is perfectly acceptable, and I would highly encourage runners to walk through the aid stations (while staying out of the way of other runners :) ) ~Phil

Create a good running soundtrack to keep you motivated. Or use a fitness app like “FIT Radio” to keep a good beat going all run long! ~Mallary

If possible, join a running group or start a running group, even if it’s only two or three people. You can learn a lot from one another and encourage one another. ~Jacob

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