Runners, hikers and those who just like to help are ready to enjoy the great outdoors while supporting a pair of Catholic causes.
Looking for something to do March 5?
McDowell Mountain Regional Park, 16300 McDowell Mountain Park Dr., Fort McDowell (map)
Kiwanis Park, 95 W. Baseline Rd., Tempe (map)
Both are family-friendly events.
The Desert Nun Run and a Hike for the Homeless are both March 5 in Tempe and Fountain Hills, respectively. Both consistently draw parish groups, school groups and individuals for a morning of fellowship and exercise while supporting the mission of each organizer.
Those who join the “Take a Hike, Change a Life” event can take a 1.5-mile or 4.5-mile trail at McDowell Mountain Regional Park near Fountain Hills. Hike proceeds allow St. Joseph the Worker to give job-seeking — largely homeless — clients the basic tools they need to secure a job interview and sustainable employment. St. Joseph the Worker’s outreach goes beyond basic résumé and job interview preparation to also offer bus passes to get there, interview and work attire, a razor and ironing station to help them look their best plus job-site tools and even a “home” address to put on the application.
“They give their clients the tools to succeed. They need the money to do that and the hike supports that,” said Polly Fitz-Gerald, director of advancement and alumnae relations at Xavier College Preparatory.
This will be at least the 11th year that Xavier has supported the hike behind the scenes and on the trail. It’s the school’s community-wide service, Fitz-Gerald said.
Anywhere from 15 to 30 members of the student Key Club handle hiker check-in and registration. Alumnae, parents and faculty form a hiking team, sometimes so strong that Xavier has earned the trophy for the largest number of participants many times over. An average of 900 hikers hit the trail each year.
That also includes teams from St. Bernadette and St. Patrick parishes in Scottsdale. This marks the sixth hike Kathleen Kelly supported one of the teams.
Kelly grew St. Patrick’s team from 73 hikers four years ago to some 220 last year. St. Bernadette’s inaugural team last year had 47 hikers.
“Both St. Patrick’s and St. Bernadette’s parishioners are exceptionally enthusiastic about embracing programs to help those individuals who find themselves in unfortunate circumstances, unemployed and often homeless,” Kelly said.
Clients often share their testimony before or after the hike and Kelly realizes how easily she could find herself in their shoes.
“Their stories increase my enthusiasm to support St. Joseph the Worker’s programs and encourage others to do the same,” Kelly said.
Not every supporter has to hike. Virtual hikers are welcome to observe, join the “block party” atmosphere featuring live music, carnival games and bounce houses at the trail head or support the effort from home.
“I just can’t say enough about the staff at St. Joseph the Worker and their commitment to their mission,” Fitz-Gerald said. “These people have at their hearts the betterment of society.”
Desert Nun Run
The Poor Clare Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, who are organizing the Desert Nun Run at Kiwanis Park in Tempe, improve the community through a life of prayer. The sisters look forward to the day when additional vocations and funding allows them to build a cloistered monastery where they will truly be able to pray for the community’s intentions 24/7. Right now, because there are only five sisters on site, Eucharistic Adoration occurs during the day with a monthly 24-hour slot.
The Desert Nun Run draws runners and walkers of all ages who challenge themselves to a 10K, 5K or 1-mile course. The sisters bestow plaques and medallions to top finishers in each age category. The Poor Clares relish that personal interaction, whether it’s with the sisters or among participants who have begun to recognize one another from previous Nun Runs.
“It’s become a big social time to gather,” Sr. John-Mark Maria said.
Friendly “Parish Pride” competitions ensured roughly 50 parishes were represented in recent years. Clergy and school challenges also excite the crowd.
This year, Sr. John-Mark said to expect free giveaways, an event theme rooted in mercy — and draws on the latest “Star Wars” movie title — and possibly priests available for confessions. The sisters plan to remain along the sidelines as a sign of hope for the crowd.
“We are with them in the Lord with their joys and with their sorrows,” Sr. John-Mark said. She recalled one group of siblings who support the run each year in honor of their late mother. They still tear up when sharing their purpose.
More than 700 runners and walkers showed up last year. It takes another 100 volunteers to coordinate the flurry of activities. Individuals, parishioners, third orders and Knights of Columbus councils come to help.
“It’s one of the highlights of our fraternal year,” said Al Gillis, a past Grand Knight for Council 15001 at St. Paul Parish.
The men don’t mind getting up at “0-dark-30” to prepare for the family-friendly event that draws three generations of volunteers and participants. They help with parking, food, set up and wherever else they’re needed.
“I can’t even classify it as work because we’re having so much fun,” Gillis said, noting the smiles on their faces and joy among others.
He loves seeing people from all parts of the diocese coming together to support the sisters.
“They’re here to basically serve us and they need a hand,” Gillis said. “It’s pretty much our responsibility to help them.”
St. Paul parishioners were even spotted supporting last year’s Hike for the Homeless.