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International Marathon Team Runs for Free a Family


For the third year in a row, participants from several Christian Reformed churches ran or walked in the race that allows entrants the opportunity to finish on the 50-yard line of Solider Field, home to the Chicago Bears.

Gary Leo (center), organizer of Team Free a Family, Rachel Brink, CRWRC Program Adviser in Cambodia, and Andy Ryskamp, CRWRC U.S. director, at Soldier Field 10 Mile.
Deb Kamp

Gary Leo, from Orland Park (Ill.) Christian Reformed Church, again organized the event to benefit Free a Family, a program of the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, the CRC’s relief and development agency.

“Free a Family comes alongside families in Christian love, to support and educate them for three years,” Leo said, “and then, with all of life’s tools, they become self-sufficient. With so little money—but with God's blessing—we can do so much. This is a world-class cause participating in a world-class event.”

More than 50 people signed up, representing churches from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the province of Alberta. They were mostly from the CRC.

As of June 6, Team Free a Family had raised a total of $21,000 in support; over the course of three years, more than $50,000 has rolled in for the Free a Family program, which this year celebrates its 20th anniversary.

“It’s exciting to see the passion and dedication of Gary and the other volunteers as they’ve put in the hard work of building Team Free A Family from the ground up,” said Randy Hedman, regional CRWRC Donor Relations Manager for the north-central U.S. “I think their passion and enthusiasm are infectious, showing others that they can make a difference in the lives of poor communities through their interest in running.”

Andy Ryskamp, U.S. director of CRWRC, and Rachel Brink, CRWRC Program Advisor in Cambodia, were among the participants that ranged in age from early teens to people over 65.

“By partnering in ministry through Team Free A Family and CRWRC, the runners and walkers and their sponsors are empowering parents and their communities to build a better life for their families,” Hedman said. “Free A Family is not just helping one or two individuals or children at a time—it’s a community-based approach, meaning that the whole community is engaged in poverty-reducing programs.”

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