A Thanksgiving tradition that started in 2012 with only about 25 people raised more than $1,000 this year for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Over 100 participants in the annual Thanksgiving Day Rau-Athon – an early Thanksgiving morning run involving family and friends of Nathan and Annette Rau – donated to raise that money.
“It was shocking, but in a great way,” Nathan said of the donation.
Nathan, who is known locally for running ultramarathons, started the run with just family and friends because there was no such event near his Waterloo home.
Inspired by a friend who hosted a homemade triathlon at their home in Red Bud, Nathan organized the event.
It is not an official run, as there are no winners. Nathan described it as more of a social gathering, with some people only walking a bit and some never leaving Rau’s home.
Those who do participate in the physical activity have a few options. There is a one-mile course for children. Adults can choose between a 5K or 10K course that takes them throughout Waterloo.
Nathan always takes the day before Thanksgiving off work to use sidewalk chalk to mark the course.
“You get some funny looks from people, but it’s kind of fun,” he said.
After holding steady in participation in its second year, the informal event has grown each subsequent holiday.
Before this year, participants donated to raise money for the American Heart Association since the Raus’ children go to school in Waterloo and the Waterloo school district raises money for the AHA.
This year, however, the family of young cancer warrior Elsa Wiemerslage approached Nathan about running in the St. Jude Memphis Marathon fundraiser last weekend.
So, he decided to use the Thanksgiving Day Rau-Athon to raise money for that organization instead this year, which he credits with the run raising the most it ever has.
“I’ve got to think that’s part of the reason the contributions went up so much this year,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with the heart association, but there’s a lot of emotional connection with St. Jude.”
Also new this year, Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic School music instructor Chad Minier played the national anthem on his trumpet prior to the run.
A video of the performance can be viewed on the Republic-Times Facebook page.
“It was goose bumps,” Nathan said of his response to Minier’s rendition. “It really took the event to the next level for us.”
That does not mean Nathan is looking to do the same with the participants in the run, as he wants to keep it for only family, friends and friends of friends.
He may also keep St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as the benefactor of any contributions in the future, though that is undecided.
“With people’s reaction to it and their generosity, I could see it possibly going to St. Jude,” Nathan said. “But who knows? Maybe next year something local comes up again.”
No matter where the money goes, the intimate Thanksgiving tradition will continue.
“As long as it’s still fun and it doesn’t get overly complicated, I’m sure we’ll keep doing it,” Nathan said.