This past weekend, my friends and my children's teachers and other dedicated souls, ran a 197-mile relay over 36 hours from Madison to Chicago.
The Ragnar Relay is an intense test of training and endurance. These runners -- parents and teachers from the Irving school community -- ran in shifts, through the night, through the weekend.
And they did this -- volunteered their time, called on friends and family for donations, and committed to weeks of training -- all to advance an effort to replace 80,000 square feet of 50-year-old blacktop with a multi-use green space to benefit the school and the wider community as part of the Irving Schoolyard Project.
Sure there are side benefits of achieving a physical goal and improving cardiovascular health. But make no mistake that the money they raise will go to something tangible for the school.
Last year's relay runners funded the purchase and installation of solar panels for the school. Check out the video. My future farmkids are among the sun's bands and rays. The sweet voices are 5th graders performing at the school's holiday concert.
As I started thinking about what these devoted runners endured to raise an impressive $11,000, I thought about what our kids endure each day on the blacktop.
There are no soft landings.
Our head injury rate is sky high compared to all other elementary schools in our district.
And our community is without adequate green space to gather and cheer on our shared soccer and baseball teams.
We can -- and will -- keep holding bake sales, yard sales and run relays to help get the funds needed to transform our space. Parents have been working on this for more than a decade already.
So at some point, sooner than later, my hope is that the school district will pick up the baton and start running with this project and recognize what the parents, teachers, students and alumni already know, that this massive asphalt-covered space is more than a playground. It's the gateway to southeast Oak Park. And it's the center of our community.