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Running for a reason

For the Love of Schools fundraiser will be held in Wilsonville on June 2


This time of year, a lot of people run for leadership positions in schools’ parent-teacher organizations. A few people run for positions on the school board. Michelle Tonkin has a bigger idea: She wants you to run for all the schools in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District. by: SUBMITTED - The second annual For the Love of Schools run will be held June 2. Participants get to decide which school program their fees will support.

The parent of three children who attend or have graduated from West Linn-Wilsonville schools, she is married to Brad Tonkin, the son of Portland-area auto dealer Ron Tonkin. She also is the force behind For the Love of Schools, a 5K and 10K race to be held June 2 in Wilsonville to benefit four school-supporting groups: Music and Art Partners (MAP), the Wilsonville High School Athletic Fund, the West Linn-Wilsonville Education Foundation and the West Linn High School Athletic Fund.

The Ron Tonkin Family of Dealerships is known for its slogan, “For the love of cars,” as well as for its support of charitable organizations such as Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, the Make-a-Wish Foundation and the Oregon Schools Foundation. In early 2012, the Tonkin organization was interested in starting a local fundraising campaign.

“Schools, that’s always my hot button,” Tonkin said.

From the start, she knew she needed something much bigger than a typical cookie dough or magazine sale fundraiser.

“We send our kids out into our neighborhoods and we keep asking the same people all the time. We wanted a more global reach — we need to get out of our ZIP code,” she said.

The first For the Love of Schools race was held last year and attracted about 150 runners. The Tonkin Family of Dealerships underwrote all expenses associated with the event, so unlike in other fundraising races, 100 percent of each entry fee went to one of the specified causes.

“Why reinvent the wheel?” Tonkin said, explaining her decision to give the money raised through the race to organizations that already were doing the job of supporting West Linn-Wilsonville athletics, music, arts and teachers.

The online entry form allows each runner to choose which group will receive the registration fee. Registrants can select their school affiliation to target their donation or they can use the comment box to identify a specific sport. Teams ranging from cheerleading to lacrosse are promoting the race to supplement their own fundraising efforts — an idea Tonkin enthusiastically supports.

“Coaches shouldn’t have to think about fundraising,” she said. “They should think about coaching.”

A runner herself, Tonkin knows that people enter races not only because of who the organizers support, but also because they enjoy the experience.

“We started this (as) something fun for people to do,” she said.

Now, in its second year, the event will see the addition of an elite race that is attracting top-tier runners from around the Northwest.

“I wanted not just a participation event but also something that others would come to see,” Tonkin said.

Her goal has always been to “start small and grow smart,” letting the race develop in the West Linn-Wilsonville district before slowly expanding it to other area school districts.

However, upon learning that some Portland Public Schools may be cutting arts programs drastically in the next school year, she scheduled meetings with school leaders to discuss the possibility of organizing a separate event there in 2014.

After the race’s success last year, she plans to add other nearby school districts to the Wilsonville event, perhaps as early as next year.

“It’s just adding buttons onto the registration,” she said. “It’s more work, but I want it to work.”

With a long-term commitment to the race from the Tonkin Family of Dealership, she intends to build a track record that will attract business support — especially support from other homegrown Oregon businesses.

“It’s so much better for our community when we have strong schools,” she said.

So far, the plan is working. Registration is up this year, thanks in part to strong encouragement from the running community online. With the race more than two weeks away, registration already is approaching the total number of participants last year. Tonkin said she is expecting a last-minute surge of registrations, and she hopes to double last year’s participation.

The Wilsonville City Council plans to send a team of 25 runners and the city of West Linn is putting a team together too.

“Whoever wants to come support schools, this is a fun way to do it,” Tonkin said.

Volunteers are also needed at the event to staff aid stations, provide directions, help with registration and more.

The event will be family friendly, with options for both walkers and runners. Strollers are welcome, although pets are not. Both the 5K and 10K will be closed-course, chip-timed races, and those with strollers should plan to start toward the rear to avoid entanglements.

Learn more, register online or download a registration form at fortheloveofschools.com.




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