BOLINGBROOK – About 45 Oak View Elementary School students missed the annual Girls on the Run-Chicago 5K on June 1 at Toyota Park because their bus sat in heavily congested traffic just two miles from the starting line.
With the support of Bolingbrook Mayor Roger Claar, American Girl, Claire’s and several coaches and parents, the local girls on the run team ran its own 3.1-mile race after the final full day of class June 4.
“The events that led to most of our team missing the Girls on the Run 5k is devastating and disheartening,” Oak View Elementary Girls on the Run Coach Jamie Crouch said. “I am so proud of the way the girls handled it and unbelievably thankful for the parents, teacher and sponsors who helped us organize our own race.”
A half-hour before the start of the Girls on the Run-Chicago 5K, Oak View Elementary Coach Jamie Crouch waited alongside several parents near the Toyota Park entrance, she said.
Crouch drove to Bridgeview, but the bus carrying her team, assistant coaches and several chaperones had yet to arrive.
The bus – which was chartered by the event organizers, but paid for by Oak View – left the Bolingbrook elementary school about 7:30 a.m. However, because of traffic near the intersection of Archer and Harlem Avenues, the bus did not arrive until 10:30 a.m., after the race had ended and when the event staff was breaking down the finish line.
“Weeks before the race, I pleaded with organizers to pick our team up no later 7 a.m.,” Crouch said. “They wouldn’t budge and assured me that the team would make it on time.”
That was not the case, and the Oak View team was part of the about 1,500 children who missed the race due to traffic, Girls on the Run-Chicago Executive Director Kris Smart said.
The problem, Smart said, was a lack of security and police presence.
“We worked very hard with a well-established race company, and the city of Bridgeview and the Bridgeview chief of police,” Smart said. “But, on the day of the event, they only sent one police officer to Toyota Park. There was nobody managing traffic. Bridgeview police did not provide the resources promised and gave us no advanced notice.”
The Bridgeview Police Department declined comment.
Girls on the Run-Chicago since has issued an apology on its website and is refunding registration fees for those who did not participate. The organization is not refunding the $200 that each school paid in bus transportation fees, Crouch said.
After missing the event they had trained all year for, Crouch felt determined to make it to her team. But, with only three days left of school before summer vacation, she was pressed for time.
With the help of Valley View and Oak View administration, Crouch organized a 5K following the final full day of school June 4.
Several teachers and parents were on hand to cheer the runners. Additionally, Mayor Roger Claar donated pizza, and American Girl and Claire’s provided gifts and goody bags to all participants.
“It is very unfortunate that our team had to go through this,” Crouch said. “But it is so heartwarming to see how the community rallied around our girls.”