With the St. Anthony’s Parish Feast in jeopardy of being canceled, parishioners are creating a virtual event to help support the church.
Usually held in June, the feast was postponed to Sept. 24 to 28, but its status will depend on how coronavirus conditions are then. With parishioners not attending church for the past three to four months amid the Covid-19 pandemic, donations are low. Last year, as part of the 50th annual feast, the St. Anthony’s Fathers’ Club, a group of dads who look to better the community and support the parish’s initiatives, hosted its inaugural 5K on the Saturday of the feast, and this year a virtual twist is planned.
“The idea behind this is to give people something constructive to do,” explained Joe Hissong, a 5K organizer and Fathers’ Club member. “Something that’s healthy, something that’s good and something that will help other people. And at the same time, obviously, we want to raise some money for St. Anthony’s. Every little bit helps.”
Under the virtual guidelines, participants of all ages can sign up on the Elitefeats website, and they will then have a 10-day block between July 10 and 19 to complete the race after paying a $25 fee. Those who wish to buy in bulk can purchase four entries and receive a fifth free. Once registered, participants can complete the race by walking or running on a treadmill or the street, following last year’s route, or join with a group of friends to participate from a social distance.
Once the race is completed, participants are asked to upload photos of themselves online at the Elitefeats race site. Everyone who registers on Elitefeats will receive detailed instructions on how it works, Hissong said, and the company will also send bibs for runners and walkers to don during their sessions and for their photos. Additionally, the company will eventually mail medals to those who place. Participants can also choose their distance, such as 5K or one mile.
At last year’s inaugural 5K, nearly 100 people took part, helping to raise money for the parish. The race was held on a Saturday morning, and those who participated were given $5 worth of “feast bucks,” which organizers hoped would encourage them to return at night for the feast. Should the feast go on as scheduled in September, a physical race would be scheduled for the morning of Sept. 26, Hissong said.
Annually, the feast draws thousands of people and serves as the largest fundraiser for St. Anthony’s. Hissong said it was important to host the virtual race. The parish’s food pantry is more active than ever, as more people have fallen on hard times because of the virus.
Hissong said he was confident the community would support the virtual event. “There’s a spirit within the St. Anthony’s parish which is really positive,” he said. “People try to help each other, try to help out the parish. . . . This gives somebody a way to help other people and the parish.”