Celebrate Westlake will mark its 25th year this Saturday when runners, walkers and kids race participants take off from the starting line at St. John Medical Center as part of northern Ohio’s premier 5-mile run, 5k run, 5k walk and kids fun runs.
Back in 1990, when Celebrate Westlake was just an idea, founder Bud Hagy had no idea that someday he would be organizing the Silver Anniversary of this premier community event.
“The first thing that comes to mind is the longevity of the event,” says Bud as he reflects on Celebrate Westlake’s history. “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. 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 forgot his running shoes,” recalls Hagy. “So we had to go to Second Sole to get him a pair. It was on a Saturday night and were 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. Planting that seed of wellness is his most important mission for Celebrate Westlake. “It is all about health and fitness,” said Hagy. “There are a lot of adults who have thanked me 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 than sitting in front of a computer. It has made a big difference in a lot of people’s lives.”
“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.
Click here to register online for Celebrate Westlake 2015