March 12, 2020

Well, our first race of the 2020 season is in the books! This was also Wander Project’s first race being the official nonprofit partner of Vacation Races and my first race being the Executive Director of Wander Project. 

I was inspired for most of the weekend. Inspired by the magnificent sandstone walls inside Zion National Park. Inspired by how smooth and flawless the race and expo, set-up and events ran. Inspired by all of the athletes that worked so hard to cross the finish line. Most of all, I was inspired and honored to meet the first charity bib participants of the year. 

Not only did these athletes train physically and mentally to be prepared for the race, but they took this commitment one step further in deciding to register for a charity bib; making sure that they were creating the most positive impact they could in our host community. 

Since we know that raising funds and awareness can be one more obstacle in an athlete’s journey to the finish line, we created a few incentives for the top fundraiser for each race/event. 

I was so excited to meet Madi Buck on the Friday before the race. She traveled all day with her boyfriend and other “Madi supporters” just to get to the expo in time for her packet pick-up. She had no idea that she had won the “Top Fundraiser for the Zion Half”  and was so excited to learn that she would have a free entry into next year’s race. She was equally as excited when I saw her at the finish line. Madi raised over 190% of her fundraising goal and is now in the running for the top fundraiser for the year. If she wins this, she will win airfare, hotel accommodations and free entry into her choice of Vacation Races half or ultra marathon for 2021!

This year, through the charity bib program alone, we were able to raise over $14,000 to support the communities in and around Zion National Park. But you did not have to have a charity bib to give. Through individual donations, we were able to raise an additional $7,500 putting this year’s race total over $21,000 that will return to the area.

I would like to personally thank everyone who donated this year, especially our charity bib athletes that met and/or exceeded their goals including:

Lavin Benes, Christina Ly, Sarah Dorrier, Jaime Murillo, Tammy Hsueh, Madi Buck, Francesca Mastromarino, Abby Parke, Jenny Michelman, Andrea Guiterrez, Drew London and McKenzie Storey.

It is not too late to give! If you would like to make a donation and missed me at the expo you can visit our website and donate directly on our donation page. We will hold a grant process in July where organizations in the area can apply for these funds to help solve the local issues the community is facing. Make sure to follow Wander Project on Facebook and Instagram, as we will continue to post about the positive impact these funds have in the communities that inspire us to run, explore and of course wander. 

*Charity Bib runner Abby Parke and Mikey celebrating at the finish line. Photo curtesy of Abby Parke.

About the author 

Ryan Jenkins

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