ELMHURST – Elmhurst residents Dawn Wheatland and Kristin Morrow started the No Frills Fun Run in 2012, raising $10,000 in the first race for an Elmhurst family with a child who had spinal muscular atrophy.
The No Frills Fun Run gained its name because organizers had "absolutely nothing" to offer race participants besides a donation of some 2XL T-shirts to the 60 runners, Morrow said. As the years have passed, the grassroots race has grown, and community members and businesses have donated plenty of items, including gift cards, notepads, coupons, dog treats, sunscreen, shirts and fitness studio visits.
"But by saying 'no frills,' we know that you're going to walk away feeling a lot of love for a family, but you are not really expecting anything in return," Morrow said.
Fast forward six years, and the No Frills Fun Run nonprofit has given more than $225,000 to Elmhurst families in need who have faced a death in the immediate family or an illness that has caused financial hardship, she said.
In 2017, participants raised $85,000 for the family of Matt Toole, who is battling ALS. This year, organizers expect about 425 runners, who can choose to run or walk a quarter- or half-marathon or whatever they want to do to be part of the event.
"The community is completely embracing our mission. It seems that everyone wants to be involved in helping those in need," Morrow said.
Families are selected through a nomination and application process. Seven people read the applications and choose the family "greatest in need," she said.
This year's recipient is the Greve family.
Ray Greve was a Cook County Sheriff's deputy and worked as a security officer at Elmhurst College before he died of esophageal cancer in October 2017, said his wife, Julie Greve.
The Greve family, who has lived in Elmhurst since 1998, has tried to attend all of the various other fundraisers the No Frills Fun Run nonprofit has done in its honor this year to be uplifted by the community and to remember the support that's been given.
"Our hope is that at some point that we'll be able to give back ... This community is just amazing how they pull together and support a family ... in their own community. ... We're already overwhelmed with everything they have done. .. They have blown away any expectations I could have even dreamed of," Julie Greve said.
Paige Greve, one of Ray's daughters, will sing "America the Beautiful" on the day of the race, and John Vincent, who sings the national anthem for the Chicago Cubs, will sing the anthem at the after-party, Wheatland said.
"Everybody really comes together in this town of Elmhurst, and they give this family a great big hug and a lot of love," she said.
Jen Knuth, owner of FITT-RX, a personal training fitness center at 123 N. York St. in Elmhurst, has been a sponsor of the race for five years. As a sponsor, FITT-RX donates items for the raffles at the after-party, and it has hosted packet pickup in the past.
Knuth said the race has been an opportunity for Elmhurst families to teach their children how to give back in ways such as raising awareness and funds.
"[Elmhurst] is a small community of people with big hearts," she said.
Knuth, who tends to run a quarter-marathon, or 6.55 miles, added that since the race occurs in Feburary, runners never know what they're going to get in terms of weather and potential for black ice. But people tend to establish a camaraderie and understanding of how their participation has an impact on the family.
"This is nothing, nothing compared to what the families have been enduring," she said.
If you go
WHAT: No Frills Fun Run
WHEN: 8 a.m. Feb. 25 (pre-race ceremony starts at 7:30 a.m.)
WHERE: Illinois Prairie Path and South York Street in Elmhurst
COST: Suggested donation of $100 per individual runner, $75 per team member if running as a team