P1runforunborn10-14-10Entrants in the 5K Run for the Unborn in Slinger, Sunday, Oct. 10 head for the starting line. The event drew more than 200 runners and raised more than $2,000 to support local pregnancy help centers. (Catholic Herald photo by John E. Kimpel)SLINGER — A couple of years ago, Kate Gehring began running marathons, feeling a sense of camaraderie with fellow runners and accomplishment with each breathless step toward the finish line. As most of marathons in which she participated were fundraisers for various causes, Gehring conceived a cause that led to hosting Slinger’s first 5K Run for the Unborn.

“I was always being asked, ‘Do you want to raise money for this cause or that cause?’ And honestly, they were all great causes, but the one closest to my heart was the pro-life cause,” she said. “I have always felt that if we could get that right, all the other causes would be fixed as well.”

The idea was born during her first marathon as Gehring collected prayer intentions for each mile run from friends and family. It grew during her second marathon when she designed a logo imprinted with baby footprints and raised funds through sponsorship of each footprint.

“I pinned the footprints to the back of my shirt and I did hear quite a few comments during my marathon last year with those on my back. Something about running 26.2 miles really allows you to open up about your life – and let’s face it, there is plenty of time,” she said. “This is where my start-up money came from and when January came around, I decided to dive in and start organizing the 5K as a New Year’s resolution. I have had only good comments about this run, but it does seem that people are reluctant to stand up and commit to the cause.”

The run was held Sunday, Oct. 10, and began and ended at Gehring’s parish, St. Peter. More than 120 runners ranging in age from 1 to 80-plus ran and walked to raise money for local pregnancy help centers.

The 31-year-old and her husband Mitch are the parents of three children. Their eldest, Abigail, 9, ran in the race, while Lily, 5, handed out candy necklaces to runners under 12 who finished the race, and 3-year-old Maximilion spent the day with his grandparents. The couple is expecting their fourth child in November.

“This served as a reminder of the cause as well as an excuse to concentrate on the Run for the Unborn and not train for any other races,” she said. “There was a lot of prayer and preparation that went into planning this.”

While she hopes the event will draw more runners next year, the most difficult aspect was finding sponsors unafraid to make a statement to support the life of the unborn.

“I contacted over 50 businesses, and of them, I had only five business sponsor us. Most of the time, I either heard that the businesses were not interested or I got no response at all,” she said. “This was in addition to the Knights of Columbus helping us. Getting the permits was difficult, too, since Slinger is a small community that has never had such an event before. But Slinger offered a way to keep costs down with much lower permit fees and requirements.”

The family friendly event included a brat fry hosted by the Knights of Columbus, a Life Fair with area pro-life organizations and a children’s activity table. Sponsors donated money, services or products and included Kwik Trip, Sweet Creations Bakery, Gehring’s Meat Market, Road ID and Autumn Oaks Assisted Living.

Under a canopy of fall colors, participants dashed, walked, and strolled through the rolling hills of Slinger’s countryside, bringing a sense of accomplishment to Gehring. Top male and female finishers received a medal and were: Brendan Milikan, Tim Egan, Matt Ohlson, Natalie Mizgalski, Laura Reinke, and Zipporah Caspers.

Gehring is hopeful for the future of the event. As word gets out, she anticipates additional sponsors and runners for next year’s Run for the Unborn, slated for Oct. 9, 2011.

“Start up costs were more than expected,” she said. “I am hoping that we will have some donation in the end to benefit pregnancy help centers. But I believe the Knights and I will meet and take into consideration how much we have, who needs it the most at the time, and retain some to use as start up for next year’s event, so it isn’t coming completely out of my pocket.”

After careful planning, Gehring was edified to see all her hard work come to fruition and pleased to be able to run for those who may never learn to crawl.

“I have worked on this since January, and the time spent has increased progressively from an hour here or there to most every minute of the day,” she said. “But it was all worth it and I could not have done it without the support of family, friends and the Knights of Columbus. There isn’t anything better than supporting the ultimate cause – life!”