KINGSTON — About 30 dedicated long-distance runners braved slushy and slippery conditions on Sunday to help area struggling families at the 10th annual Wilkes University Running Club Relay for Heat.
The funds raised will be used for the Martin Luther King (MLK) Heating Fuel Fund which is administered by the Wilkes-Barre Commission on Economic Opportunity (CEO).
Organizers hoped to top last year’s total of $2,500 as the runners covered 100 miles along the Susquehanna River levee, soliciting donations for every mile. Most of the runners were Wilkes students along with alumni and participants willing to support the heating assistance program.
David Ritter, director of housing and outreach and a 1973 graduate of Wilkes, could not offer enough praise for the efforts of the runners to help the community by running on conditions that were in some places “treacherous.”
“They took time away from their families to give back to the community,” Ritter said.
The MLK fund helped about 35 families recently who were facing a “heating crisis.” Most of them were elderly households or families with small children who exhausted their government assistance or are for some reason not qualified for other assistance programs, he added.
The CEO gathered about $10,000 for the MLK fund that gets from charitable donations as well as the Wilkes relay, Ritter said. The money is used to pay for “deliverable fuels” such as oil or propane, he said.
When a family qualifies, the CEO will actually call a local heating fuel vendor and pay for the delivery, he added.
William Terzaghi, a Wilkes professor of biology and advisor to the running club, lauded the efforts of the runners who insisted to conduct the relay despite organizers’ concerns about “fall hazards.” They did not want the event moved indoors, he said.
Terzaghi said the running club came up with idea of the relay for heat back in 2004 as part of its community service mandate. Club members also do outreaches at local elementary schools promoting healthy lifestyles, he said.
As temperatures dropped to nearly record lows this winter coupled with rising heating costs, the MLK fund is needed more than ever, he said.
The runners understand that, and some of them have been running in this particular relay every year since its beginning, he said.