By: Chris “Topher” Aderhold
On a recent overcast Wisconsin winters morn, with the temps hovering in the mid-20s, a gaggle of dedicated runners lined up in preparation for the start of the inaugural Ballweg 5k Race in Waunakee, WI. There were two divisions of runners – one for kids, and one for adults. One of the runners in the kids division, Mike, had been gearing up for this moment for months.
Mike is a fourth grader at Aboretum Elementary in Waunakee. While running isn’t one of Mike’s two favorite sports – that honor would go to biking and golf – it does receive the bronze on his list of favorite sports.
A few months ago, Mike was on the hunt – he’d been doing a lot of running and wanted to compete in a 5k race. Unfortunately, no race could be found. Others might have given up, but not Mike. A resilient and determined young guy, he wasn’t satisfied with the lack of race options. When no race could be found, Mike Ballweg did the logical thing: he organized his own race.
On the morning of New Year’s Eve 2016, early from his slumber Mike arose. He had work to do – cones were set up throughout his neighborhood to mark the course. The registration table – showcasing medals for the top 3 finishers – was set up at the start, and snacks and an igloo of water were set up at the finish.
In the weeks leading up to the race, with the help of his parents, Mike spread the word near and far to invite as many runners as possible. 35 runners signed up, and then at just before 11am on New Year’s Eve, they lined up behind the starting line, eager and ready to run.
The sound of a snowball being shot from a snowball canon announced the start of the inaugural Ballweg 5k, and just like that, the runners were off!
As if a 9-year old organizing a race for dozens of people isn’t impressive enough, Mike insisted that the race be a fundraiser. Each runner paid a $5 entry fee. After giving it a little thought, Mike decided that the funds raised that day should go to a place called Camp Gray.
For the past two summers, Mike has been a camper at Camp Gray. A settler camper, Mike has stayed in St. Patrick cabin both summers. As you may know, the bathroom facility for residents of both St. Patrick and neighboring St. William cabin is a delightful little bungalow known as the St. John Bathroom. At more than 50 years old, St. Johns has seen better days.
Mike suggested that perhaps the money could go to improving St. Johns. If improvements to St. Johns is what you want, improvements to St. Johns is what you’ll get, Mike. In the spring, when we open up St. Johns in preparation for summertime use, we’ll post pictures of the improvements!
When I spoke to Mike a few days after the race, I asked him how the race went.
“Well, I won the kids division and my dad was first in the grown ups… so it went great!”
Great indeed, Mike! Thanks to Mike for his contribution to Camp Gray, and thanks to Mike for being an example that you’re never too young to begin making a difference.
Thanks for tuning in, friends!