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VOL. 114 | NO. 224 | Friday, November 17, 2000

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Run for Hope House Race underscores power of teen with a mission By SUE PEASE The Daily News The Memphis community provides countless events for runners. Any given weekend, you can find a 5K or 10K race to enter, an event that is often organized by a non-profit group to support a worthy cause. Some runners might realize the preparations that go into these events are not easy. Any given race may mean a years worth of work finding sponsors and race-day volunteers, organizing registrants, arranging for T-shirts and planning course logistics that would make anyone who attempts to direct such a race think twice. But these factors did not deter a 16-year-old high school student who is organizing and directing the second annual Help for Hope House 5K at 9:30 a.m. Nov. 25 at Shelby Farms. Caitlin Steiger, a junior at White Station High School, is not only organizing and directing the event, but she came up with the idea and put it into motion by directing last years event. The idea of supporting the Hope House Daycare Center, a daycare for children who are infected or affected by HIV/AIDS, is what keeps Steiger focused. "Whenever I get discouraged, I think about Hope House. Its knowing that it is an amazing cause and how much it is needed. Its the cause that keeps me going," Steiger said. The idea of a race event came to Steiger from her experience as a runner. She took up running in eighth grade, but her middle school didnt have a cross-country team, so Steiger began entering road races on the weekends. After observing others organizing racing events, she thought it would be "really cool" to direct her own. So she did. Steiger learned about the Hope House cause through her activities with the Girls Service Club at White Station Middle School. She also realized organizing a road race can be a great vehicle for raising awareness. "That was one of the things I liked about Hope House. I knew what a wonderful cause it was, but I also knew that not many people were aware of it," Steiger said. "To me, people always know about St. Jude, Ronald McDonald House, March of Dimes, and a lot of them have races to support them. But people dont know about Hope House. People receive T-shirts for the race. There was a story on Channel 5 last year on Thanksgiving night. There were articles in the paper. Everything that people do to advertise the race raises awareness about Hope House." Raising money is key and Steiger said it is the hardest part of organizing the event. Although it is a difficult task, Steiger approaches it with determination and Hope House representatives said the amount raised is evidence of that. Mark Lovett, Hope Houses assistant director, said last years event netted $13,000 for the center. This year, Steigers goal is to raise more than $20,000. With an operating budget of about $450,000, $20,000 can really help the day care with supplying food, transportation and other materials goods to children and families. "People dont understand. They can see that Caitlin does the race and works hard to do it, but to put it in a financial perspective, she could help run our agency for one full pay period," Lovett said. The center, located in Midtown, serves about 35 children, ranging in age from six weeks to six years, with day care, respite care and 24-hour emergency care. The children either are infected with HIV or a parent or primary caregiver is HIV positive or has died from an AIDS-related illness. The center opened in 1995 and served five children. It has grown a lot since then. Steiger contributes the growth to the invaluable service the center provides. "Hope House is an amazing place the teachers are so amazing. The staff is wonderful. The facility is clean. Its a wonderful place for these kids to go," she said. The event is run the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and Lovett and Steiger said the holiday timing could actually be a benefit. They received a date from the Memphis Runners Track Club, the group who helps organize the event and recommends a date that wont coincide with another race. "We thought, Well, lets go with it. The weather shouldnt be horrible. There will be people leaving town for the holiday, but we will also have people coming into town. Weve had people as far from Memphis as Minnesota. I think you get a lot more diverse crowd," Lovett said. Steiger, whose personal record for a cross-country three-mile is 19:58, will be a bit too busy on race day to run in the event and her family, which she calls "really supportive," will attend and assist in race logistics. Race day registration begins at 8:30 a.m. at Pavilion 3 in Shelby Farms. Both Lovett and Steiger hope for good weather and a turnout equal or surpassing last years 450 runners. WMC-TVs Joe Birch will emcee the race and post race activities including music by Faces With Shoes. Steiger will be a senior next year and busy applying for college, she said she wont be able to dedicate as much time to the race but plans to assist with preparations. She hopes to always stay connected to the cause, however. "Im going to remain involved always at some level with Hope House," she said.
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