Sousaphone players run 5k for Crisis Nursery


Sydney Laput

Michelle Bell, a graduate student studying wind band conducting, runs with her sousaphone during the Illinois 5k Marathon on Friday. Around 30 Marching Illini sousaphone players participated in the run.

By Nicole Littlefield, Staff Writer

Friday evening, the Marching Illini’s sousaphone players helped raise money for the Crisis Nursery by running in a 5k during the Illinois Marathon weekend hosted by the Christie Clinic. This was the first time the race was held in two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The race was during National Child Abuse Prevention Month. The event helped bring awareness to the only emergency child care center in Champaign county, the Crisis Nursery.

Jan Seeley, the director of the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon, worked on the organization of the race weekend. 

“For a long time, we didn’t know if we were going to even have race weekend because of the shortage of police and public works here,” Seeley said. “Finally, in mid-February, we got permission to have all of the events except for the marathon, which was super painful because it’s the signature event.”

The marathon used to be the highlight of the race weekend but this year, the Christie Clinic rebranded the event into a race weekend that included six events: a half-marathon, a 10k race, a 5k race, a relay, a youth-run and a mile run. Even with the signature event canceled, there were around 11,000 participants total running throughout campus for the entire weekend. 

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    Runners take off at the start of the Illinois 5k Marathon on Friday.
    (Sidney Malone)

    “This is the largest community event in the town,” Seeley said. “It shines a really bright light on our community and we’re just so happy to have it back.”

    About 4,000 people gathered outside near the iHotel and Conference Center for the start of the race. Annie Mattson, senior in Engineering, was one of the many racers carrying a hefty sousaphone. Mattson said she was saddened by the cancellations of the last two years.

    “I think it’s unfortunate that the race got canceled the last two years,” Mattson said. “Especially because we missed out on raising money for Crisis Nursery.”

    Although she said she didn’t take the race too seriously, Mattson and the rest of the sousaphone players who participated ran with their instruments for the whole three miles. Each sousaphone weighs around 30 pounds, but that didn’t stop them from supporting a good cause. 

    Michael Shoucair, senior in Engineering, helped facilitate the Marching Illini’s involvement and was enthusiastic about the event returning.

    “I think we had about 30 people running all with sousaphones on,” Shoucair said. “We raised a little over $5,000 for the Crisis Nursery, and we’re really proud of that. Being able to organize and work with all of these amazing people has been a highlight.”

    Michael Montanile, senior in Engineering, participated in the run two years ago. Although he said it was unfortunate that the race was canceled two years in a row, he was glad to be able to run one last time as a student.

    “My favorite part about this is being able to go to the Crisis Nursery and interact with the staff and all the kids that are there,” Montanile said. “Every year, we get to record a video with some of the kids and the other people working at the nursery just to see what they’re doing, see their facilities and see how they operate. It’s always a heartwarming experience.”

    Sousaphone players from the Marching Illini, present and past, and instrumentalists from Northwestern University ran. Each one of them dashed into Memorial Stadium, hearing the cheers while crossed the finish line.

    “I enjoy being able to share (the experience) with so many people, especially the freshmen because it’s a tradition that I’m glad hasn’t died,” Shoucair said. “I’m glad that I got to keep it going because there was a lot of doubt whether or not we’d be able to do it, especially with a two-year gap.”

    Shoucair hopes that the Marching Illini continue the tradition after he graduates.

    “Sousaphones are heavy,” Shoucair said. “It’s not particularly easy, but it’s a really unique event that brings people together.”


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