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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Hamilton

Combining Passion with Insanity

On the 20th anniversary of Run for Runaways, Outreach staff and supporters are challenging themselves again - this time by running 200 miles through the Great Smoky Mountains.

Staff at Outreach have a history of challenging ourselves to physical feats. 20 years ago, Outreach hosted Run for Runaways: a 24-hour fundraiser challenging participants to run on treadmills. People could sign up to run or walk for 30 minutes at a time and ended up having over 200 participants. The idea of doing something like this comes from a place that mixes both passion and insanity, and this kind of enthusiasm is ingrained in the culture of Outreach.

Participants run on treadmills as part of Outreach's 1999 fundraiser, Run for Runaways.

On the 20th anniversary of Run for Runaways, we decided to push ourselves again - this time by running 200 miles as part of a Ragnar Relay. Organizing a team to run this relay first made sense to me after learning about Outreach’s financial state a few months ago. I felt helpless at first, but I also felt like there was an opportunity for hope. Having experienced God’s love and his ability to show up in huge ways unexpectedly made my wheels turn.

A few months prior, I had participated in a Ragnar Relay to help raise $6,000 for our friends at Wheeler Mission. Having enjoyed the camaraderie of our team and the fact that we were able to meet our fundraising goal, I decided to check and see if there were any more races happening within a reasonable distance to Indianapolis before the end of the year. And there it was: Tennessee in November. So I organized a team of 12 passionate (and crazy) Outreach staff members, volunteers, and supporters and set a team goal of raising $12,000 for the youth we serve.

Group photo of "Team Wheeler" who ran a Ragnar Relay race earlier this year.

In the beginning, signing up for the relay felt more like a means to an end. I had forgotten just how much training went into the last race. But as the months progressed, training, planning, keeping morale high, and fundraising have become more and more intense. While I know we are working towards something amazing, it has been - at times - discouraging and exhausting. Despite the challenges, it has also been beautiful, relational, and empowering.

Every time I complete a run, I feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in what I’ve achieved. Every time I see a donation come through, I remember that we are surrounded by supporters who are cheering us on behind the scenes. Occasionally, I will get feedback from a teammate letting me know my encouragement meant something to them, and I am reminded that God put us all together to pray for, speak to, and build each other up. Every time someone hits a personal fundraising goal, they report it back to me with so much excitement - and that excitement is contagious!

It all probably sounds incredibly cheesy, but to me, the Ragnar is a perfect metaphor to life. It is exciting, challenging, frustrating, terrifying, painful, joyful, and thrilling all at the same time. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a place similar to many of the youth we serve at Outreach, but through this process, I’m reminded of how hard it can be to keep your eye on the goal when there are so many barriers between where I am and where I’m going. Some runs just plain suck. Sometimes I think I’ve gotten in over my head. But I won’t give myself the option of giving up - and neither do most of our youth.

Group photo of Outreach's Ragnar team (aka, the East Side Hope Dealers) after their first practice run.

What keeps me going is knowing that I have support, that there are people in this with me, that God has called me to it, and that all of this was for the youth we serve. As I lead by example, I’m reminded that a few months of intense training, sacrifice, pain, setbacks, and personal challenges are all worth the sense of achievement in the end. And if I can encourage even one young person along the way to stay their course - even when the end result is out of sight - then all of this was totally worth it.

Get involved and support Outreach's Ragnar team by helping them reach their fundraising goal of $12,000! All donations will go straight to supporting the youth served at Outreach.


Jennifer Hamilton is a Case Manager at Outreach.

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