Volunteering at the Chicago Marathonby Christine Chestnut, Women of Vision Chicago
Early Sunday morning, October 12, a small group of cars gathered in a suburban church parking lot. From the cars emerged bleary-eyed women clutching travel mugs filled with coffee greeting one another and giving hugs. This group of women, who typically don’t emerge from bed at 5 o’clock in the morning (let alone their homes), were getting ready to pile into two cars and head into the city. A highlight for the Chicago chapter of Women of Vision, these ladies were getting ready to serve at the Team World Vision tent at the Chicago Marathon.
Team World Vision has the largest charity tent in Charity Village. Charity Village is a group of tents set up for charities running and raising funds for their cause. It is home base for the charity runners running in the marathon. With over 1200 runners participating in the marathon on behalf of Team World Vision it is a huge undertaking to set up and run the tent which is staffed by mostly volunteers under the direction of some Team World Vision staff. This year marathon runners raised over $1.2 million for clean water. The tent is a meeting place to store gear (yeah, 1200 runners worth of gear) and to meet family after the run. Lou Malnati’s supplied pizza for the runners and cases of pop, water and protein drinks were on hand for the runners and their families.
The weather was perfect for running that morning starting out cooler but warming to low 60s with the autumn sun. Those of us working the tent began peeling off our layers early as we set up tables and chairs for the after party and another group organized the gear check. Table cloths, balloons and pictures of children filled the tent along with cowbells and clappers to cheer the runners upon arrival. Each runner was announced upon their return to the tent and given a rousing welcome of hoots, hollers, claps and bells. It was quite a sight. Runners ranged from 16 years old to 70, many first timers and some repeaters. One of the women from our WOV Chicago chapter ran 14 miles with her husband prior to the start of the marathon in honor of her 40th birthday and to raise money and awareness for clean water. Another woman from our chapter ran her second Chicago Marathon in a row. Hearing the stories of why people were running was inspiring.
By the end of the day that same group of women was bleary eyed once again but with smiles on their faces despite aching feet and backs. After a marathon of volunteering they smiled with the joy that comes from serving others and knowing that small things like balloons and noisemakers, keeping treasured gear safe or serving a thick slice of delicious pizza all help turn the challenges of running 26.2 miles into a fun and truly great experience.