Runners don ‘ugly sweaters’ to benefit Circle of Friends
Last updated 12/6/2022 at Noon
More than 400 runners and walkers, decked out in tremendously ugly sweaters and garish garb, turned out for the second annual Ugly Sweater Run on Saturday, December 3. The event, sponsored by Run Sisters Run, is a benefit for the Circle of Friends program.
Participants needed their sweaters this year, with temperatures at the start hovering below freezing — as opposed to last year’s event held under balmy conditions in the 60s.
Participants had the option of a five-kilometer course or a one mile out and back. As a fun run, times and places were not recorded.
Kelly Bither, organizer of the event, believes in the work of Circle of Friends, and directed all funds from the race to the organization.
“We set up the entry fee as a suggested donation so that entire families could take part and know that they were helping out directly to support Circle of Friends,” she said. “This event is all about putting on a fun community event for all.”
A total of 416 people registered for the event and 330 showed up for the race, according to Bither. She estimated that about $7,000 was raised for the Circle of Friends mentorship program (see related story, page 6).
Sponsors included Kizziar Properties, The Barn, Woodlands Properties, Three Creeks Brewery, Sisters Coffee, and Birch & Home.
Kelly Scholl, program director for Circle of Friends, explained how the Ugly Sweater Run benefits Circle of Friends beyond the budget.
“It really builds community awareness for what we and who we are,”she said. “What we are finding is that a lot of people who live here, new and old, don’t really know what Circle of Friends is all about and how we are serving many children in the community through mentoring and other offerings.
“Because the need continues to grow for kids, we are always looking for more mentors and other volunteers to help us in our efforts,” she said. “We love that this run has become a family event because we are all about kids and families.
Circle of Friends has recently added two new staff members who are youth program leaders, according to Scholl. Shaina Fields is working with elementary students and Henry Schuler is connecting with the middle and high school students.
“These two are working inside the schools with our identified students in collaboration with the schools to offer point of contact support,” she said. “They are supporters in addition to the mentors and also help the students who have not yet been matched with a mentor.”
Nicole Woodson, executive director of Circle of Friends, echoed Scholl’s comments about how the run provides a fun event for families while also broadening the community’s awareness of the program.
“We are a community here in Sisters and it truly takes all of us to raise our kids. The more help, the more volunteers, the more mentors we can get, the better it is for everyone in our community.
“Circle of Friends currently has thirty mentors serving 35 individual kids one on one, but we are expecting to need five to eight more mentors for some kindergarten-aged kids this year,” she said.
Woodson directs those interested in becoming mentors or doing other volunteering to contact Kelly Scholl through the Circle of Friends website.
“We do ask mentors for a one-year commitment to start with, while the organization commits to following kids all the way through grade 12,” she added.
Lauren Frey, the women’s top finisher in the fun run was visiting from Texas.
“I brought the kids out with me while my husband is working here for five weeks and feel so grateful to be here on such a beautiful day,” she said.
Erik Ryan, a 2021 graduate from Sisters High School, took the top men’s spot and said he was glad to be able to help support the mentoring program.
Kelli Jacobson of Bend came out with some running partners who call themselves the Trail Sisters for the run.
“Everybody was dressed really festively and had smiles on their faces,” she said, “and the volunteers have all been so enthusiastic. Everyone is having a good time.”
The group pledged to come back for Bither’s next race, The Lucky Leprechaun, in March: “We’ll come to anything that includes wearing a costume,” they agreed.
Annie Winter of Sisters said, “It was incredibly well-organized and a lot of fun. Doing a community activity event like this is a great way to support a nonprofit like Circle of Friends.”