Ellen Clark is founder of the Run and co-director of the Sustainable Living Foundation, a nonprofit established to organize the event, among other philanthropic duties. Clark has tirelessly combined her passions for Zimbabwean culture and physical fitness education every year since 2000, and as a result the event has expanded dramatically over the past decade: Today it includes 11 races of varying lengths and a fair full of games, food, live music and art exhibitions, all celebrating the culture of Zimbabwe.
Time is short, however — the upcoming Run is Sunday, March 28 at St. Joseph School in Mountain View — and organizers are still hoping to bring in more registrants. The races, which include a $5 registration fee, begin at 1 p.m., and the fair, which is free to all, opens at noon.
People of all ages can participate in the races, which are 220 yards for preschoolers, a half-mile for kindergarteners and one mile for older children and adults. Last year, 400 participants ran in the races, which are named after different animals and accompanied by African animal mascots — Clark's favorite part of the race.
"The mascots are all just running around, and I love seeing the looks of joy on the children's faces," she said.
This year's event features the usual games, live music and food, including sadza, Zimbabwe's cornmeal food staple. A new addition to this year's lineup is a booth from Batsiranai, an organization that helps support Zimbabwean mothers with disabled children by selling the mothers' handicrafts.
In addition, the event includes an art exhibit for children from preschool to high school, as well as a shoe drive, where locals can donate "gently worn" rubber-soled shoes by bringing them to the Run.
Since its inception the event has raised $250,000 for the Makumbi Children's Home, an orphanage in Zimbabwe that cares for 100 AIDS orphans. Last year it raised $33,000, and every year, Clark said, all participation fees, T-shirt sales and donations go directly to the orphanage. She said the main underwriter of the event is the Wakerly Family Foundation (the late Kate Wakerly was a co-founder of the Voice).
The inspiration for the event came after Clark's son volunteered as a teacher in Zimbabwe in 1997. Clark and her husband visited the country and were deeply moved by the poor living conditions and high rate of HIV infection, which leaves many children as orphans.
"I had to do something," Clark said of the original inspiration for the Run. "I don't know much, but I like running — so I said, 'Let's have a cross-country race.'"
Clark also emphasizes that for local children, the benefit of learning about another culture is as important as the financial aid their participation gives to Zimbabwe.
"If the children leave the Run having learned just a little bit more about Zimbabwe, then we've done our job," she said.
What: The 11th annual Run for Zimbabwe Orphans and Fair
When: Sunday, March 28; the fair starts at noon and the first race is at 1 p.m.
Where: St. Joseph School, 1120 Miramonte Ave., Mountain View
Info: Call Ellen Clark at (650) 948-8029, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.zimbabweparaguay.org.