McHENRY – He was 18 years old and life was just on the verge of happening for him.
This is how Judy Michols described her son Chris’s state when he was struck and killed by a work van crossing Route 14 in 2015. Michols and her husband, Curt, put Chris to rest, after which Michols found herself lost and reeling, unsure of what to do next. Michols then took a page out of Chris’s book, and decided to volunteer.
“Chris was not without his troubles,” Michols said. “He started volunteering through community service hours, but found his niche and place he belonged and enjoyed. He loved working with horses at BraveHearts and just liked interacting with people. Whether he knew it or not, he was adding to people’s lives. He was a cordial, friendly guy that took time for everybody and I think that’s what made it special.”
Rather than just focus on one of the nonprofits Chris was fond of, the Cary resident found an opportunity to help a plethora of local nonprofits through volunteering for the McHenry County Human Race 5K Run/Walk.
“As parents who have lost a child, the last thing we want is Chris to be forgotten or for us to lose his sense of ‘Chris-ness,’ ” Michols said. “We want to remember his crooked smile and sense of kindness and caring that left a mark on everybody.”
Michols is a co-chairperson and works with the volunteers on race day to ensure things run smoothly.
“This is a wonderful way to do more not only for the nonprofits but for the community,” Michols said. “It’s a great opportunity for McHenry county residents to come together with family and friends and have a great day, help others and maybe develop a tradition.”
This year’s race will take place on April 28 at McHenry County College. Five different types of events, which include a 5K Run/Walk and Toddler Race, start at 8 a.m. Proceeds from the race are given to one of the 71 charities of the runner’s choosing that serve McHenry County. This event highlights and strengthens the missions of local nonprofit organizations.
Last year’s race raised close to $70,000 and saw more than 1,000 runners. In its ninth year, Rebecca Stiemke, executive director of Volunteer Center McHenry Country, hopes to surpass it.
“This is a really great family fun community event,” Stiemke said. “Participants enjoy bringing their kids out and introducing them to the community. It’s an opportunity to support the community and get healthy at the same time. Nonprofits are so important and they keep our community healthy. Come out and show them the love. Let’s put our arms around them this one day a year and show we support them.”
In all, $2,400 worth of prizes will be given away to runners. Volunteer superheroes Batman, Spider-Man, The Hulk and Captain America will be present to cheer on attendees. A nonprofit expo will take place in the MCC cafeteria featuring agencies supported by the race. Registration is open through April 25 at runsignup.com/Race/IL/CrystalLake/McHenryCountyHumanRace.