CHARLESTON -- The 10th annual Run/Walk for the Fallen of Illinois will be held on Saturday at Charleston High School’s Trojan Hill.
The event, set for 7 a.m.-1 p.m. this year, honors the more than 250 military men and women from Illinois who have died during the ongoing fight against terrorism. Almost 20 area service members have given their lives in the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Since 2010, participants from throughout Illinois have gathered at Trojan Hill each August to pay tribute to these fall service members. To mark this milestone, a special ceremony will be held at approximately 9 a.m. Saturday.
"We just want to do something a little different for the 10th run while still keeping the emphasis on honoring and remembering the soldiers, all the men and women who have lost their lives," said said even co-sponsor Bill Lair.
Mattoon Exchange Club members will carry a giant U.S. flag to the field during the ceremony. A Charleston High School choral group will then sing the national anthem after the Charleston VFW Post 1592 color guard offers its salute. In addition, Mattoon High School’s Junior ROTC Gladiators drill team will perform.
Also new this year, the national “Honor and Remember” flag will fly over the memorial run/walk along with the U.S. flag. This new flag is part of a national movement to publicly honor and remember every American fallen service member and to recognize the sacrifice of their families.
In addition, run/walk organizers are bringing back Mattoon native Cameron Schilling's "Portrait of a Soldier" drawings of all Illinois service members who have died in the war on terror. These drawings will be displayed in the nearby Charleston Middle School cafeteria.
Event participants are asked to walk or run 1 mile for a fallen service member from Illinois who died in the war on terror. They can take part for a fallen service member that they knew, or one can be assigned to them. Participants will receive an information card about their service member with a photo of him or her. There is no fee to participate.
Co-sponsor Carolyn Cloyd said U.S. service members are still in harm’s way. She noted that Army Spc. Michael Isaiah Nance, 24, of Chicago was killed in combat last month in Afghanistan and Army Sgt. Holli Bolinski, 37, of Pinckneyville was killed in a vehicle accident in March while serving in Kuwait.
Participants will walk or run on the Charleston High School track, located just west of Charleston Middle School at 920 Smith Drive. Water, donated by Home Depot, will be available to all participants.
Co-sponsor Vivian Bales said they organized the first Illinois event at the request of national Run for the Fallen organizers. Bales said they initially thought the local run/walk would be a one time event, but it has managed to continue over the years.
"I think it's really because of the support of the community and people who come out to these events, it's meaningful to them," Bales said.
Registration is available in advance at www.charlestonillinois.org via the “Run for the Fallen” link, and will also be possible on site. For more information, contact Bales, 217-549-0117; Cloyd, 217-235-4984; or Lair, 217-218-2549.