Get your running shoes ready – Awesome 3000 returns Saturday

McCullough Stadium will be full of kids Saturday morning as a beloved Salem tradition resumes under new leadership.

The Awesome 3000 fun run is back April 29 after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic and the closure of the Salem-Keizer Education Foundation, which started the run in 1983.

About 2,000 kids have registered, with races available for preschoolers through high schoolers, and distances ranging from 300 meters to 3 kilometers. Registration costs $25 and remains open for runners online. Races kick off Saturday at 8:15 a.m.

“I’m pretty excited about it coming back,” said Jodi Blackman, the director of education and enrichment for United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley, which is putting on the race this year.

Blackman used to work for the education foundation before the nonprofit shut its doors in 2020 following financial challenges. As the foundation’s assets and programs were split among other local nonprofits serving kids, United Way acquired the signs, posts and other items needed to run the Awesome 3000.

This year, they’re coming out of storage.

Organizers this year didn’t have time to run a t-shirt art contest, so the shirts will feature a retro design incorporating the logo from the original run, alligator and all.

Volunteer slots remain open for the weekend to provide race “security,” lining the courses to help ensure kids stay safe and on track. Volunteers can sign up on the race website and must be 14 or older.

Race proceeds in the past helped fund the education foundation’s programs. Now, they’ll kick off a new United Way project to make grant funding available to every school in the Salem-Keizer School District. Details are still being worked out, but United Way leaders want to establish funds teachers or other school employees could use to request aid for classroom projects, field trips or other items not covered by the school’s regular budget.

Blackman said she hopes to make some money available by the end of the school year.

“We want to send a message to the community that this money is indeed going to support schools,” she said. She didn’t yet have an estimate for how much the event might raise.

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.