MANCHESTER — The organizers of the Maple Leaf Half Marathon and Make-A-Wish Vermont will be joining forces this year, with the idea of boosting each other's profile and spreading the visibility of their efforts.
A partnership involving the half marathon, the Manchester and the Mountains Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Make-A-Wish Vermont was announced Tuesday at the Manchester Community Library. Representatives of the half marathon and 5K event, and Jamie Hathaway, the president and CEO of Make-A-Wish Vermont, described the mutual benefits they hope will flow from their collaboration.
"I think what we're going to do with the race is not just raise money, but reach families, and inspire children," Hathaway said, adding that expanding the visibility of his organization in the southern half of the state was one of his priorities.
"This race will not only raise funds for wishes, but more importantly it will bring a greater understanding of our work to Vermont families with children facing life-threatening conditions," he said in a prepared statement released at the start of the announcement made in the library's Hunter Community Room.
David Pardo, a member of the Manchester Lions Club, which has taken a leading role in organizing and conducting the event since its return in 2007, and who has also served as a race director before turning over the reins this year to Amy Herrmann, said the event had reached a point where this partnership would strengthen it further and build on past success.
"It's exactly what we needed at exactly the right time," he said. "We need something to take us to the next level and I'm convinced this is going to take us to the next level."
The Maple Leaf Half Marathon first came into existence in 1978, and was originally organized by local restaurateur Guy Thomas. In its early years it was an event that saw many of the premier runners of the day participate in it, and was the lead-in for many who ran in the New York City Marathon. World records in the half marathon were set by runners in the Maple Leaf during the late 1970s and early 1980s in both the men's and women's divisions.
Thomas continued to take a lead role in organizing the event for its first 10 years or so, and after that the race was held intermittently under the direction of other organizations until Jay Hathaway, then the executive director of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce and Jamie Hathaway's father, persuaded Pardo and the Lions Club to help the chamber bring back the event in 2007. After some initial hesitation, they agreed to that, Pardo said during Tuesday's announcement.
The race has grown from about 300 participants in 2007 to about 1,000 in recent years, he added.
The event includes a 13.1 mile half marathon run and a five-kilometer race and walk, and those will continue as before. Make-A-Wish will add on a third event — a "Walk for Wishes" — which will occur in conjunction with the rest of the Maple Leaf event but on a separate course, yet to be determined.
Last year's Walk for Wishes was held in Shelburne, Vt., and according to Make-A-Wish Vermont's website, the top five individual and business fundraisers brought in $15,475, and the top five teams generated an additional $18,530 to support the work of Make-A-Wish Vermont.
Founded in 1989, Make-A-Wish Vermont, like the national organization with which it is affiliated, grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses. More than 700 Vermont children have been granted special requests or wishes since then, which could be meet-ups with sports figures or other celebrities, special experiences like being a firefighter for a day, or an excursion to a destination that would otherwise be out of reach.
The organization is hoping to grant about 40 wishes this year, Hathaway said.
The proceeds from the event will be divided between the three organizations involved in it, and the enhanced visibility and cross-marketing will hopefully yield additional funds and sponsors to boost local non-profit organizations that have supported the Maple Leaf in recent years, as well as benefit Make-A-Wish Vermont, both Hathaway and Pardo said.
Berta Maginniss, the executive director of the Manchester and the Mountains Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the business organization is also excited to be part of the expanded event.
"The growth of this race has been a long-standing cooperative effort between the Manchester Lions Club and the Manchester Chamber to support our nonprofits throughout the community. The inclusion of Make-A-Wish Vermont as a partner will make us even more successful, particularly with the increased focus on our young people — the alignment is perfect," she said in a prepared statement.
The date for this year's Make-A-Wish Vermont Maple Leaf Half Marathon has been set for September 10.