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Runners loop the lake for a good cause

Kate Boyle, organizer of the Tri-Lakes Community Center's 5K Loop Around the Lake, poses outside the Challenge Center in Superior with Erin Smet and Susan Johnson, who are training to run in the 5K walk/run around Lake Dowling on Aug. 18. The top adult male and female finishers will receive a bouquet of Bay Produce vegetables like the one Boyle is holding. (Maria Lockwood / mlockwood@superiortelegram.com)

The Tri-Lakes Community Center’s second annual 5K Loop Around the Lake kicks off Saturday, Aug. 18, on Tri-Lakes Road in Douglas County.

Last year’s inaugural event drew more than 80 runners and raised $1,800 for the Challenge Center, a nonprofit organization in Superior that serves people with disabilities.

“We were impressed with how the community rallied,” said Kate Boyle, chairwoman of the walk/run. “There was an 80-year old who walked it, and there were young mothers with very young children, children in strollers.”

Volunteers helped sort T-shirts, manage water stations and track times during last year’s 5K, which started with a cannon blast.

“There was even a community gentleman with a drone, checking when people would be coming in,” said Teresa Clayton, service coordinator for the Challenge Center. “A lot of community members pulling together for a fun event.”

The lake scenery pulled some to the race; others came for the exercise or the challenge. This year, they can add one more incentive: tomatoes.

“I think all finishers will get a Bay Produce vegetable,” Clayton said.

Winners in the adult male and female categories will earn a bouquet of vegetables from Bay Produce, the Challenge Center’s greenhouses. The greenhouses, which employ 32 people of all abilities, were known primarily for growing beefsteak tomatoes. The business has since added bell peppers, basil, cucumbers, lettuce and cherry and grape tomatoes.

All the money raised from the 5K will benefit the Challenge Center, which offers residential, vocational and day services programs.

“We are hoping that we have more people than last year because I really think that giving back to the community is so important,” said Kathy Lisdahl, president of the Tri-Lakes Community Center. “And the Challenge Center is really one of the nonprofits that’s close to my heart. My daughter used to work here. It was just a really neat experience.”

Last year’s proceeds went to the purchase of a truck-mounted snow plow to improve winter access at the Challenge Center’s 10 residential facilities.

Two Superior High School seniors, Kjersten Lisan and Megan Tunell, paved the way for the fun run in 2014 when they coordinated a Light up the Darkness 5K around Lake Dowling to raise awareness of sexual assault and human trafficking.

“We entered it and thought, ‘Wow, this is a great idea,’ because of wellness, because of our lovely area,” Boyle said.

When Lisdahl became president of the community center, Boyle suggested bringing the 5K back. Lisdahl put her in charge.

“That’s how children led us,” Boyle said.

They’re hoping more youngsters will enter the Aug. 18 event.

“We’d like to see more and more kids get involved because of wellness,” Boyle said. “That lake is totally paved, and we see more and more families walking it with their dogs, their kids, biking it. We want to promote it. It’s a beautiful area.”

Participants can pick their pace.

“A lot of people walk,” Clayton said. “That cannon goes off and they just start walking, socializing. And some people run and make some pretty decent times.”

Older residents who don’t want to run could sponsor a young person, like a grandchild or neighbor. Or they can make a donation directly to the Challenge Center at the event.

Race registration begins at 7:30 a.m. at 4705 E. Tri-Lakes Road. The race begins at 8:30 a.m. The cost is $35 for adults and $25 for runners under age 18; $30 for adults, $20 for runners under 18 who preregister by today.

Visit challenge-center.org and go to “Shop Bay Produce” under the “Vocational Services” tab for registration information. It’s tucked in under a list of Bay Produce vegetables that can be ordered and picked up at the Superior greenhouse.

Information on the race is also available on Facebook under Tri lakes Community Center; at the Challenge Center, 39 N. 15th St. E.; and on fliers posted at area businesses.