The Fourth Annual Turtle's Run took place on Sunday, a 5K run and 1-mile walk to benefit the Kevin Bolin/John Cooper Scholarship Fund. Kevin Bolin and John Cooper were goalies for the OPRF Hockey Club who died in separate car accidents.
The race was started in September 2002 by Pat Bolin, mother of Kevin, and with the help of the rest of the Bolin family, but it suffered a one-year hiatus last year because two sisters gave birth during the planning process.
"We realized that there was simply too much going on within the family to organize the event last year," explained Pat Bolin.
This year the event was planned by friends of the Bolin family within the OPRF Hockey Club community. Oak Park resident Jim Sierminski, past president of the OPRF Hockey Club, was the main organizer, and the Bolin family acted as consultants, having organized the event the previous three years.
Sierminski was pleased with the event, especially since it did not take place last year. "Not running the event last year really changed things for us," he said. "We were not starting everything brand new, but having missed one year made for a real challenge. On the whole, though, it was a success."
Sierminski pointed out that he was helped by other leaders within the hockey community, Ron Morelli, Tom Shipley, Fred Valentini, and the members of the OPRF Football and Hockey programs.
In the past three years, the event raised more than $60,000 for the scholarship fund. Pat Bolin was uncertain if they would raise as much money this year as they had in previous years. There were 215 runners registered before the day of the race, a good number, she explained. However, Kraft Foods had given $2 for every $1 raised by the race when it first started. The last year the race took place, in 2004, Kraft matched every dollar for dollar. This year Bolin was not sure how much Kraft would give.
In its first year, enough money was raised to give one scholarship of $1,000 to a graduating senior of OPRF High School. In its second year, two scholarships were given. And in its third year, four were given.
"These were one-time scholarships of $1,000," Bolin explained. "This is barely enough for books at college in a single year nowadays." But in the fourth and fifth years of the scholarship, enough money was raised to give a scholarship of $1,200 that was renewable over four years of college. OPRF High School graduates Ben Meyerson and Bob Grayson were the recipients of the scholarship in the past year.
The scholarships go to members of the OPRF Hockey Club who have demonstrated loyalty to the team, commitment, a strong work ethic, and excellent leadership abilities?#34;qualities valued and practiced by Kevin Bolin and John Cooper.
The turn-out for this year's race was strong. There were 304 total participants, 193 of which were runners. Andy Dirgo, an Oak Park resident, member of the Hockey Club, and OPRF High School senior, took second place in his age group of 15-19 year olds. This was the second year Dirgo had run the race, and he explained what it meant to the hockey community.
"We usually have a lot of people in and around the hockey team show up for this event; it is a great example of how tight-knit we are as a group," he said.
Andy's father, John Dirgo, was the top finisher in the 45-54 year olds age group.
The overall male winner was Eric Berlin of Oak Park with a time of 17:44. And Kevin Bolin's sister, Colleen Newhart, of Oak Park, was the overall female winner with a time of 18:11. Oak Park and River Forest residents took first place honors in 10 of the 15 age groups.
Sierminski announced that he would be organizing the event again next year. The OPRF hockey community can be expected to respond to the event like they do to precious, early-morning ice time?#34;on time, willing and able.