A longtime Laramie tradition is set to continue next weekend, but with a new twist designed to include more people in the community.
The Sue Wedel Walk/Run/Wheel, a fundraiser for Interfaith-Good Samaritan, has been taking place in late April for the last 30 years.
This year, in addition to a free one-mile or three-mile excursion, the community is invited to enjoy live music and a cookout afterwards.
“It’s still a fundraiser, but it’s more of a celebration,” said Jo Carol Ropp, a member of the Interfaith board of directors. “We’re inviting everybody — all of our community partners, all of our clients and people that have utilized or volunteered in any way — to come.”
Registration for the walk/run/wheel portion of the afternoon is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. April 29, with the event itself scheduled to start at 2 p.m. Ropp said participants can cover the one-mile and three-mile distances in a variety of ways — run, walk, push a stroller, walk a dog, ride a bike, roll a wheelchair.
There’s no cost to join in, though some participants choose to gather pledges as a way to raise money.
“Those that don’t want to walk can pledge to sponsor somebody else,” Ropp said.
The event, named in honor a long-standing board member who died a few years ago, has been around almost about as long as Interfaith-Good Samaritan itself, Ropp said, which dates back to 1988.
“We’ve been doing the same thing for a really long time. We all thought this is time to do something a little bit different,” she said.
Food, including brats, hot dogs and hamburgers, will be provided courtesy of Kiwanis Club of Laramie. Live music by Moral Panic, Birgit Burke, Franklin Goodboy and The Woodpile will get going as participants return from the race course. Ropp plans to oversee a coloring table for children. The event is scheduled to run until 6 p.m. Everything is free.
“You don’t have to give a thing, and you’re still welcome to have the food, the dancing and the music,” she said. “It’s a celebration.”
Ropp has been around Interfaith since its earliest days. She remembers working for Laramie Head Start in the Laramie Plains Civic Center across the hall from the Interfaith office. It was staffed with just a couple volunteers at the time. She noticed many Head Start clients greatly valued the services offered by Interfaith, and she decided to get involved, eventually joining the board and even spending six years as the board president.
“I began to see how wonderful it was for these people, that sometimes through no fault of their own found themselves in dire circumstances,” she said.
Interfaith began as a clearinghouse to help coordinate services between various churches and agencies helping people in need, she said. A number of organizations in town contributed to getting it started, with an initial budget of $7,000 in 1988.
“This year, the budget is about $300,000,” she said.
That number, while a reflection of the need for food and housing in Laramie, is also a tribute to the generosity of the community, she said.
“We wouldn’t be there without them,” she said.
These says, Interfaith gives away about 1,000 pounds of food a day. It also helps provide medication, transportation, car repairs, utilities, rent and emergency shelter.
“We’re an agency of last resort,” Ropp said.
Like Ropp, many Interfaith board members have been committed to the work for a long time.
“It’s a labor of love,” she said.