WHEATON – A former Wheaton resident is hoping to turn her passion for helping veterans in need into a charitably profitable undertaking with a fundraiser 5K run/walk Sunday in Burr Ridge.
Pauline Ozols, founder and executive director of the nonprofit race Run for Veterans, created the organization to raise awareness and funds for the healthcare of those who served in the armed forces.
"There are so many issues currently facing vets, including with their mental health," she said. "It needed more attention."
Ozols said she had previous experience addressing another major problem in the veteran community: unemployment. In her role as a veteran recruiter, she said she met many veterans whose health needs inspired her.
"It's really horrifying – every day 22 veterans take their own lives," she said. "This is just about giving back to veterans who have given so much for all of us."
The run's beneficiary is Volunteers of America Illinois. One of its major pillars is work with veterans, said Director of Community Relations and Resource Development Lili Scales.
Scales said the organization turned its focus to veterans services about a decade ago and operates a supportive housing development in Chicago with another expected to open in the near future. In its programming, Volunteers features a number of offerings, such as job searching and mental health referrals.
Ozols reached out to Volunteers President and CEO Nancy Hughes Moyer to begin what Scales called a "no-brainer partnership." All proceeds from the race will go towards the nonprofit's veteran programs.
"It really runs the gamut of what needs each veteran has," Scales said. "Some may have some unforeseen circumstances where they were laid off and problems just compounded. ... We are trying to live out our mission of helping out America's most vulnerable."
Gates for the race open at 7:30 a.m. and will be followed by a pre-race push-up competition, organized alongside the Burr Ridge Kettlebell Club.
A color guard and "Taps" performance will be held before the 9 a.m. racetime. Afterwards, there will be a reception with live music, vintage military equipment and food.
If you go
What: Run for Veterans
When: 9 a.m., July 27 (gates open 7:30 a.m.)
Where: Village Green at Village Center Drive, just north of McClintock Drive, Burr Ridge
Information: visit www.runforveterans.com and www.voaillinois.org. Race day registration is available for $45.