On June 28 at 11:59 p.m. costumed "fools" will gather at start lines in Sitka, Ketchikan and Juneau for the annual Only Fools Run at Midnight race to benefit Southeast Alaska Independent Living (SAIL). There is both a 5K run and a 1K walk/wheel.
"We've had dog sled teams, a six-pack of bear, the 'fifty nifty United States,' a deck of cards (and) river rafters," said Sarah Bosma with SAIL in Juneau. "People just get some really nifty ideas."
The best centipede in Ketchikan last year was a cardboard and wooden boat with holes for legs, heads and arms, said Kevin Gadsey with SAIL in Ketchikan.
This is the 24th year for the "Fools Run" in Juneau. Five years ago the race began in Sitka and Ketchikan and quickly became a favorite among runners.
"It's been building every year," Gadsey said. "I'm expecting that there's going to be a very large crowd on Saturday."
Organizers expect over 1000 participants in the three communities. More than 100 volunteers are needed to organize the event.
SAIL has organized the race since 2003. Previously, the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) organized the Juneau race.
One year the MDA experimented with having the race during the day on a Sunday to see if participation would increase.
"It just kind of lost steam," Bosma said. "People stopped running it."
When SAIL took over the race they brought it back to midnight. About 300 runners showed up in 2003 and in 2007 more than 600 people participated.
"It has just kept building momentum," Bosma said.
Tristan Knutson-Lombardo, who will direct the Juneau race for the fourth year, said he grew up running the Fools Run. He thinks the run is most appealing when held at midnight.
"Staying up till midnight, especially when I was in elementary school, was kind of a big deal," Knutson-Lombardo recalled. "That makes it even more enticing for a lot of people. (It's) part of the attraction for younger kids."
During Ketchikan's Fools Run last year, one group of runners took "a little bit of a detour" to raise additional money, Gadsey said.
"(They) ran into the local bars and hit up the people in the bars for donations," he said.
Last year Ketchikan tried out a pledge drive and this year all three communities have pledge drives. Pledges are due at 5:00 p.m. June 26 to be entered in the competition for two round-trip tickets anywhere Alaska Airlines flies and other prizes. Pledge raisers can choose which community to donate to.
photo courtesy of Ken Marvin "People just get some really nifty ideas (for costumes)." said Sarah Bosma with SAIL in Juneau.
All the money raised in each community goes to support SAIL's work in that community, Bosma said. SAIL serves over 840 people throughout Southeast.
"We serve a pretty wide array of folks," she said.
Some of the services SAIL offers include loan closets, from which people can borrow wheelchairs and walkers; subsidized rides and accessible transportation; assisted technology, such as amplifying systems; brain injury and low-vision support groups; and information referral. SAIL also runs ORCA, a recreation program.
SAIL in Sitka is working on an assisted devices library, which is scheduled to open in the fall. The library will include online programs, computer software, magnifiers, hearing aids and more assisted technology.
"We've put a lot of effort into getting the newest and latest," said Amy Christel with SAIL of Sitka.
In Ketchikan, one of SAIL's current projects is working with the city to make the town's sidewalks more accessible, Gadsey said. He said SAIL has also recently created new peer support groups.
"I hear from people with disabilities that there's more of a community support in Ketchikan than in the past," Gadsey said.
Christel, who has worked with SAIL since August, has been impressed with the community response in Sitka as well.
"The community is really supportive of what we have to offer here," she said.
Christel said she has been hearing the buzz around town as the Fools Run approaches.
"I'm really excited to see people get foolish," she said.
Time to get foolish
Fools may run at midnight but their costumes are judged at 11 p.m., so don't wait until the last minute to show up.
And register early, especially if you want a t-shirt. T-shirts always run out, Bosma said. Pre-registration ends June 26. Day of race registration begins at 10:30 p.m.
Volunteers are always needed, Bosma said, though she understands that many people are torn because they also want to run.
For more information call 586-4920 (Juneau), 225-4735 (Ketchikan), 747-6859 (Sitka) or visit www.sailinc.org.
You'd have to be a fool not to.
Katie Spielberger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.