The first day of the 16th Annual Tour De La Porte kicked off to a great start on Friday, which saw over 100 runners and walkers participate in the three day long event’s 5K Trail Run.
The event, held at La Porte’s scenic Soldiers Memorial Park, allowed participants to either participate in a race, or simply walk along the path of the 5 kilometer course. It was just a portion of the 3-day event expected to see more than 1,200 people participate.
Rotary Club of La Porte was providing carbs for participants in the form of a delicious spaghetti dinner. Chapter president Brett Binversie summed up their involvement with Rotary’s primary mission statement.
“Our main purpose is service above self,” Binversie said.
The race is sponsored by the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte, which uses 100% of the proceeds of the event to provide aid to those in La Porte who struggle with the financial burden of fighting cancer. This marks the 4th year that the Trail Run has been a part of the event, and to date the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte has raised over $650,000 over the last 16 years to help people with cancer in La Porte.
Maria Fruth, President and CEO of the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte, was ecstatic to hold the event this year and was happy to be involved in something that’s tied so closely to their mission statement.
“Our mission as the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte is health and wellness,” said Fruth. “You can imagine, this goes right along with the mission - People walk, people bike, people run, and they’re outdoors, it’s beautiful weather, and we appreciate that we’re bringing the community out.”
Fruth was quick to add that the primary goal of the Tour is to support area natives who are fighting cancer.
“All of the dollars, 100% of the money raised here stays in the community to help cancer patients,” Fruth added. “We pay for medications, transportation, doctor appointments, we’re babysitting, trying to support cancer patients with a little extra financial support.”
The Tour De La Porte helps, on average, 70 to 90 patients per year with anything from medical costs to hotel stays, Fruth explained.
“The beauty of the Foundation is that we can negotiate prices,” said Fruth, “I can pick up the phone and talk to a hotel in Chicago and say, ‘We’re trying to assist a patient, would you meet us halfway or give us a discount?’ and we’ve never gotten a no.”
The race means so much to those in La Porte who have been touched by cancer. Marlissa Jongkind, a survivor of a particularly rare form of breast cancer, was participating in the event as a walker, was proud to be part of an event that benefits so many.
“I’m on the other side of the experience,” said Jongkind. “I’m thankful that I’m able to do this to help other people.”
The event also draws in people who aren’t necessarily from the Region. The winner of the race, Jon-Paul McCool, just moved to Northwest Indiana from Cincinnati and ran because a coworker is participating in Saturday’s half-marathon.
Also present at the even were Nancy White and her daughter and granddaughter Jennifer and Alexis Fontaine, represent 3 generations of runners, with Jennifer participating in the road running and biking events on Saturday and Sunday.
“It’s a beautiful trail,” said Jennifer. “It’s very hilly.”
Jennifer learned of the event when she moved to La Porte and saw the hundreds of signs posted around town advertising the Tour, and got her family involved in the process.
The entire event can be attributed to one man, Larry Noel, called “The Father of The Ride,” who once rode a bicycle from Seattle, Washington, to Washington, D.C. for the American Lung Association. He wanted to bring something similar to La Porte to help those in need on a local level.
“I lost both of parents to cancer, my brother and sister to cancer, my grandparents to cancer, my cousins to cancer,” said Noel. He exhausted many options before reaching out to Maria Fruth at the Foundation for help, and the rest is history.
“I’m honestly in awe,” Noel said of the event. “What makes me feel good is when somebody comes up to me and thanks me for starting this, because we help them.”
The Tour De La Porte will cap off its events on Sunday with bicycle races capping out at 100 miles long.
For more information on the Tour De La Porte, please visit http://www.tourdelaporte.org