The Ricky Byrdsong Race Against Hate brought out a record number of people this year and raised $130,000.
The event honors the late Northwestern basketball coach who was killed in a hate crime in July 1999. Over 4,000 runners and walkers participated in the 5k, 10k, or youth mile.
With 44 sponsors and 300 volunteers, Evanston came together to show its support. But signs that a community had gathered together were seen in the weeks leading up to the big event.
The Northwestern women’s cross country team worked with students at Evanston’s St. Joan of Arc School to prepare them for the race.
April Likhite, head coach of the team (and female winner of the 10k race) put together a 10-week training program for the kids that consisted of three to four days of walking and running.
In Jen Murray’s second grade class, they used posters to log the students’ running hours and one recess a week was spent training as a group with the Northwestern mentors.
“It was a great opportunity for our women to give back to the community while at the same time to promote something that they are all very passionate about,” says Likhite.
Beth Linnen, mother to a 7th grader who participated in the race, chuckles when she says her son was very proud of his 37 minute 5k time.
Linnen says, “As a parent, one of the reasons I wanted to participate with my son was that I want him to understand what can happen when bullying and hatred are allowed to get out of hand.”
The day’s events started early in the morning on Father’s Day and luckily escaped the coming showers.
As the kids lined up for the youth mile, Byrdsong’s widow, Sherialyn Byrdsong got on stage and delivered a simple yet powerful message to the kids. It drove home the importance of being accepting of everyone—an idea even relevant to children.