LANSING, Ill. (October 31, 2023) – Whether they sprinted, walked, or even pushed a stroller, the 134 people who registered for a Saturday morning 5K run helped raise approximately $20,000 for immigrants in need of housing.
It was shortly after 9 a.m. that the Chicagoland Immigrant Welcome Network set runners on their way for its fifth annual Run for Refugees.
For the second year in a row, Living Word Church (2248 186th Street) hosted the event. Runners gathered in the church parking lot to stretch, listen to a deejay pump up the crowd, and fill up with bagels and other refreshments prior to the race on a chilly fall day.
“The purpose of this event is to raise awareness for what we do in helping immigrants,” said Laura Grace Brill, who coordinated the event for The Welcome Network.
Brill said the event was also held to raise money to purchase a second welcome home.
“We have a welcome home in Lansing where refugees and asylum seekers can live while they’re starting their journey in America,” Brill said. “And we see the need to have more housing.”
People paid $40 to take part in the run, with discounts available for groups. Sponsorships and donations also accounted for the $20,000 raised.
Brill said only half as many people registered for the 5K last year when only a few thousand dollars were raised.
Brill said the current welcome home has three units with three families currently living there — two from Ukraine and one from Romania.
Svitlana Syrota has been living in the home with her husband and three children for almost a year after coming from Ukraine.
She walked in the 5K Saturday and said what a “blessing for us” the house has been.
“The world needs this organization”
Tony Burrell, founder and executive director of The Welcome Network, thanked those present for “coming out in 40 degree weather.”
“Before this race we had about $70,000 raised for the second welcome home,” Burrell said. “Now that puts us at around $90,000.”
The Welcome Network has its main office in North Hammond but recently opened a second office in Lansing.
“It’s sad that the world needs this organization, but that’s where we are,” Burrell said.
Andy Smith is a pastor at Living Word Church. He said the church helped raise funds for the first welcome home and on Saturday lent its sound system, bathrooms, and tables for the event.
“We have a real heart and passion to want to help those who are asylum seekers,” Smith said.
Smith’s wife, Michelle, said the church rallies around the families who come by providing meals and clothing.
Among the runners was Scott Overton, of Frankfort.
“I saw the race advertised for resettling refugees and I wanted to do my part,” Overton said.
Overton started running earlier this year after giving up smoking in December and set a personal best time for a 5K on Saturday, finishing in under 28 minutes.
“My family years ago, many generations ago, immigrated from Europe, and America’s wonderful,” Overton said. “I want everybody to have the same opportunity.”
Hannah Kosinski, of Dyer, is a youth leader and longtime member at Living Word Church.
“Being a Christian is to love all of God’s people and that includes people who are seeking homes,” Kosinski said.
She took part in the race for the first time.
“It’s perfect weather once you’re running,” Kosinski said. “It’s really cold before.”
Matt Layman, of Oak Lawn, was the top overall finisher. The 32-year-old had a time of 19 minutes, 56 seconds and won a $285 shoe package from Fleet Feet in Schererville.
There were other prizes given for the top female finisher and leaders in various age groups who excelled at the 3.1 mile course that started and ended at the church.