Newman Center sponsors charity run

By Ashley Lavela

Runners gathered on Saturday morning for a brisk run through Crystal Lake Park to raise money for social justice. St. John’s Catholic Newman Center and the Service and Justice Outreach organization sponsored the 8th Annual Walk/Run for Justice. SJO is a student volunteer organization on campus.

“We are run through St. John’s Catholic Chapel but encourage people of all faiths to participate in our activities,” said Jill Smialek, SJO co-president.

As SJO’s largest fundraiser of the year, this event helps support their volunteer efforts, Smialek said.

“All of the proceeds from the 5K go towards our break trips and grants that we give out in the spring to support other organizations that emphasize SJO’s values. The break trips are located throughout the Midwest and occur during all of the breaks during the school year,” Smialek said. “They include a volunteering aspect, a spiritual aspect, and of course, a social aspect through getting to know the other participants.”

Last year around 150 runners registered with 85 actual runners. Having the fundraiser during fall affects the number of participants because of other events such as football games conflict times, said Claire Zoellner, SJO’s large events coordinator.

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“I think it would be awesome if there was a huge participation from the student body for all these different issues,” Zoellner said.

Issues SJO is involved in include abortion, marriage and poverty. Working at the mental health center and the nursing home are some of the volunteer activities in which they participate, Zoellner said.

“We try to reach out and make (issues) applicable to college students on campus,” Zollner said.

Poverty is a visible issue in Champaign County. People living below the poverty line was estimated at 18.7 percent of people in the county in 2008 while the rate for the entire state was only 12.2 percent, according the U.S. Census Bureau. To make this issue more relatable to college students, 16.8 percent of those in poverty in 2008 were under the age of 18.

“Social justice is so important in a world in which materialism and capitalism reign,” Smialek said. “SJO tries to emphasize the importance of helping out those less fortunate than ourselves in different situations around the world.”