PERU - Running through the apple orchards isn't something that typically helps the community. That is, unless, it's during the Run for Jon.
The annual 2.5-mile cross country race marks its 20th anniversary this year, celebrating nearly as long of helping North Country families in need through the Jonathan Evans Memorial Fund. The Run for Jon originally started as a fundraiser for Jon's family, organized by family friends Scott Woodward and Mark Elmore, to help defray medical expenses associated with Jon's treatment for rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of soft tissue cancer that claimed his life at the age of 13 in 1992.
The following year, the focus on fundraising for the event shifted to help provide financial assistance to families with seriously-ill loved ones.
Shirley Evans, Jonathan's mother, said she never imagined being part of an event that would raise more than $50,000 to help others - but she has and she continues to be proud it's done in her son's memory.
"It's impressive," said Evans. "We're so excited we've managed to carry it on this long. It makes us feel good to know when we hear a North Country family needs help, we're able to do that. It's thanks to the generosity of all the people who are able to contribute and help put on [the Run for Jon] every year."
The fact the Run for Jon has spanned two decades is also amazing to Scott Woodward, one of the event's founders. Woodward, who was Jon's cross-country track coach at Peru Central School, said he continues to be impressed how the Run for Jon has grown from an event that drew 150 people to one that brings upwards of 400 people year after year.
"It's just gratifying that it's become somewhat of an institution and a wonderful event for the North Country," said Woodward. "The North Country is so supportive of events like this and [the Run for Jon] reaching 20 years is an example of that."
"People look forward to it not only because it is a cause they want to support but also because it has become a really good community, family event," added Evans. "It's almost like going there is kind of celebrating what you have right now - your family, your friends, and enjoying the event together."
And, just as the Run for Jon has brought people together for that reason, it's also earned itself interest from those wanting to bring home the best time to complete the event.
"It's a highly competitive cross country race," said Woodward. "We have all levels of runners and participants. We've had world class runners to walkers. It's a great athletic and fitness event."
The Run for Jon has traditionally begun with the cross country race, immediately followed by a noncompetitive 1.25-mile walk. However, this year, things are switched up a bit, said Woodward.
"We're going to start things off this year with the walk at 5 p.m. and the run will start at 5:45," said Woodward, adding a children's fun run will take place between both events at 5:30 p.m.
This year, a balloon release will be held to mark the Run for Jon's 20th anniversary. T-shirts will be available featuring the names of winners of the past Run for Jon events.
"We're hoping that we'll have some of them return," said Evans.
The Run for Jon will take place at Forrence Orchards on Mannix Road this Saturday, Aug. 28. Registration will be held from 3:30-4:45 p.m. The event is sanctioned by the Adirondack Association of the U.S.A. Track and Field Association.
"If you haven't been, you won't regret it. It's a great event in a beautiful setting," said Woodward.
Those who cannot attend the Run for Jon may send donations in care of The Jonathan Evans Memorial Fund to 7 Oakdale Drive, Peru N.Y. 12972.
For more information, contact Evans at 643-2414 or Woodward at 834-7583. Details about the event are also available on-line at www.runforjon.com and on Facebook by searching the keywords Run for Jon.