Oak Park residents Anton and Kirsten Straughan are no strangers to long distance running. However, running 1,310 laps in their backyard is a challenge they never faced until Beyond Hunger and Housing Forward combined for a fundraiser on April 26.

The event raised over $18,000 in its first day and the money has already been split between the two organizations. Their goal was to hit $25,000 in donations but the link to the donations page is still live at justgiving.com. Search for Oak Park Backyard Family Marathon.

“We are thrilled with how the event turned out,” said Kirsten. “We were concerned about the weather and had some technology problems in the first couple of minutes but, besides that, everything went as planned. We’re hoping to get closer to our goal so we can give more donations to these amazing organizations.  

The fundraiser, streamed through YouTube and Facebook, featured Kirsten, Anton, and their children running in laps in their backyard on the 600 block of South Kenilworth where the event was held. Fifty laps in the backyard was the equivalent to one mile. Anton ran an entire marathon (1,310 laps); Kirsten ran a half marathon; their son Jack ran a 10K; and their daughter Sophie ran a 5K. In order to avoid becoming dizzy from the repetition of running in circles, they switched the direction of their laps every mile. 

The inspiration for this backyard bonanza came after Anton stumbled upon a YouTube video of a runner from England, James Campbell, running back and forth in his backyard 7,000 times to complete a full marathon. He did it to raise money for United Kingdom National Health Service and ended up donating £29,351 ($31,782 U.S. dollars). 

While they had a bigger space than Campbell, the family had headphones so they could hear the livestream and answer any questions thrown their way during their laps, adding to the challenge. 

“That was very entertaining and it made it go by very quickly,” said Kirsten laughing. “We also had neighbors and friends come out to support us at a safe distance during it as well. It was great and helped us to keep going.” 

The fundraiser also included special guests from the area. Deno Andrews, Oak Park village trustee, made a 30 minute appearance on the stream as well as Oak Park police Sergeant Bob Monty, Oak Park Eats’ Melissa Elsmo, Beyond Hunger’s Michelle Zurakowski, Oak Park FFC Pilates Instructor Cameron Jarrett and many more. Before he started his 10K, Jack Straughan also held a 30-minute concert. 

The fundraiser is still open to the public and anyone who is interested in donating, according to Kirsten, has until June to contribute to the cause. 

“I think just feeling good about being part of this cool organization and this great sense of community that we all felt yesterday,” she said. 

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