Back in 1990 when Celebrate Westlake was still an idea, founder Bud Hagy had no idea he would someday be organizing the Silver Anniversary of this premier community event.
What are Bud’s thoughts on Celebrate Westlake all these years later?
“The first thing that comes to mind is the longevity of the race,” Hagy.
“Plus the loyalty of so many people. Mayor Clough has been with us since day one. So have the Police and Fire Departments – all the city officials. And especially St. John Medical Center.”
Celebrate Westlake has raised $1.7 million for community causes since its inception. “We have given 100 per cent of the net proceeds back to the community,” says Hagy. “And none of this would have been possible without our volunteers.”
Many community causes jump into Celebrate Westlake’s race day preparation and activities with generous volunteer work. Some of the community institutions include Porter Public Library, Meals on Wheels, the West Shore Y, Far West Center and Youth Challenge.
“We also owe so much to our sponsors like Q-Lab, which has been with us since the beginning, and now American Greetings which is supporting Celebrate Westlake now that it has joined the community,” adds Hagy.
Celebrate Westlake was founded as an offshoot of Hagy’s involvement with the Revco Cleveland Marathon.
“I was on the Board of Directors for the Revco Marathon and one year we needed to move part of the race course to Westlake because of road work being done in Rocky River and Westlake,” he recalls. “I went to Mayor Clough and he authorized the Revco committee to come through Westlake. We were talking and thought it might be nice to have a race here in Westlake. So we went to St. John Medical Center and (then hospital president) Luke Miller said SJMC was looking for a race for the hospital. The hospital donated the money to cover expenses that first year.”
World class runners have participated in Celebrate Westlake. None is better known than four-time Boston Marathon winner and legend Bill Rodgers, who ran in Celebrate Westlake four times in the mid-1990s.
“One year he came but he had forgotten his running shoes,” recalls Bud Hagy. “So we had to go to Second Sole to get him a pair. It was on a Saturday night and we were having a party at the fitness center that was across the street from the hospital. We were an hour late because we had to get him shoes. He signed one for me. I still have it around here somewhere.”
A fitness enthusiast himself, Hagy has completed 100 marathons in his personal running career. He says planting that seed of wellness is the most important mission of Celebrate Westlake. “It is all about health and fitness,” said Hagy. “There are a lot of adults who have thanked me now for helping them to get involved with fitness and running. You have to make fitness a part of your life. Especially when you are young. That is why we have the Kids Races. There has to be more to life in addition to sitting in front of a computer. It has made a big difference in a lot of people’s lives.”
Bringing Community Together
“The most important thing to me about Celebrate Westlake is the way it brings the entire community together,” says Mayor Dennis Clough. “Young, old, middle age and children – people coming together to celebrate the importance of physical fitness and at the same time raise money for those organizations in need in this area. It is a great way to kindle the spirit of Westlake and we are very appreciative of the fact that St. John Medical has been the main sponsor for a quarter of a century!”
Mayor Clough credits Bud Hagy and the event’s faithful sponsors for Celebrate Westlake’s longevity. “When you start something like Celebrate Westlake, you like to believe that, because of the community funding you are raising, it will go on forever. But it takes commitment from those involved. It is gratifying to see that Bud has stayed involved all these years. And also the sponsors. And, of course, the participants because without them it would not have continued.”
An annual participant in the Race Walk, Mayor Clough will be at the starting line for Celebrate Westlake again this year. “It is important to stay healthy,” says Clough.
Celebrate Westlake’s appeal is the variety of activities it offers: a 5-mile run, 5k run, 5k walk, 1-mile and half-mile Kids Fun Dash and a Health and Wellness Expo bring something for everyone.
The Kids Runs are especially fun, giving many children their first taste of physical fitness and the joy of participation and friendly competition.
Individuals can also get health screenings and check out the latest products from local merchants.
These elements bring community-wide appeal to athletes, as well as those not so familiar with the race scene. All can participate in a fun-filled, positive fundraiser.
“You see kids and adults running the race – it’s all about health, fitness and getting families together,” Hagy says. “I have had adults come to me and say that they started running because of the experience they had here as a child in the Kids Race.”