By: Carrie Swartz

The Just Us for Justice Run/Walk celebrated a big birthday this year, holding its 10th annual event on Wednesday July 19th at Carson Park in Eau Claire. The founder and director of the race, Jessie Podolak, officially “retired” as director this year, handing the reigns over to Fierce Freedom. The Justice Run will now be organized by Fierce Freedom staff and volunteers, and will be an annual fundraising event for Fierce Freedom. Over $22,000 was raised for Fierce Freedom at this year’s event! A big THANK YOU to our generous sponsors who covered all race expenses, so that all donations made by participants went directly to Fierce Freedom.

It was an eventful year! We added a new aspect to the event, a pasta dinner, on the Sunday before the race. Attendees enjoyed spaghetti, salad, and pudding while listening to a presentation celebrating the 10th year. On race day, rain, lightning and wind swept the park prior to the race, delaying races by a half hour. Thankfully, the weather cleared just in time and it was a wonderful event! We had 578 runners registered, and over 155 people volunteered. A large tree also fell on the 2 mile race route during the storm, shortening the race to 1.7 miles! Multiple food and merchandise vendors, music, a massage tent, photo booth, and the spirit of supporting an important cause made for a fun atmosphere, as has been the flavor of the Justice Race for the past 10 years. The rain delays and some complications with our new registration and chip timing system posed some challenges (a long packet pickup line and delayed race results), but we have had very positive feedback about the event overall. Every year there is something to learn from and improve for next year!

The official slogan for the Justice Race is “Just Us: Ordinary People for Justice.” The race was founded not only to raise money to fight human trafficking and modern day slavery, but also to give all members of our community a tangible way to fight the problem. The spirit of the race continues under Fierce Freedom’s leadership, inviting everyone in our community and beyond to run, walk, volunteer, sponsor, give a donation, or share their gifts and talents in some way. Together, we are making a difference!