Making a difference in Ardmore comes in many forms — even under the umbrella of one event.

Last year, the Arbuckles to Ardmore Race for Mercy drew more than 1,200 runners in the inaugural event to raise funds to build a new cancer center in the city.


Making a difference in Ardmore comes in many forms — even under the umbrella of one event.
Last year, the Arbuckles to Ardmore Race for Mercy drew more than 1,200 runners in the inaugural event to raise funds to build a new cancer center in the city.

 

But there was just as much of an impressive effort going on behind the scenes. In everything from registering runners to cheering from the sidelines to providing communication and safety patrol along the route, volunteers of all ages kept the whole process running smoothly from ... well ... start to finish.

 

“The runners who came to Ardmore last year saw the community and they commented on it,” said Alison Smalley, the creator and organizer of the A2A. “In other places where there are marathons, the only people runners see are other runners. Here, they saw people — children to senior citizens — putting the event on. It was our town that did it.

 

“Volunteers make a big difference. It’s exciting and it gives everyone who volunteers a sense of accomplishment,” she said. “We need that effort. Without volunteers, we can’t put the race on.”
Smalley emphasized that there is a volunteer spot for everyone, from children to adults to seniors and people of all physical abilities.

 

Last year, the local Camp Fire USA group wanted to participate, but didn’t know what they could do. It was finally decided that the youth could help serve and clean up at the pasta dinner, which is served on Saturday night at the Ardmore Convention Center for the runners to “carbo load” before the big day, Smalley said.

“This is not a glamorous job, but they were there in their A2A volunteer T-shirts and worked very hard,” Smalley said. “The runners attending the dinner were not used to seeing young people volunteering in this way and we have received many unsolicited compliments about the positive impression they made.”

 

Many of the Camp Fire USA kids had personal reasons they wanted to work for the A2A, such as family members or friends who had been lost to cancer.

 

Margaret Gilbert, region manager for the Heart of Oklahoma Council, said last year, five Camp Fire members and three adults volunteered for A2A. This year, they will be joined by another group and both will work at the pasta dinner. One of the groups even plans to run in the March 20 event.

 

Like the runners in A2A, volunteers can work in support or memory of someone who has had cancer. “We decided to volunteer last year not just because of individual stories of cancer but because it is a good community event and everyone is touched by cancer in some form or another,” assistant Camp Fire leader Stephanie Miller said. “We look forward to volunteering and participating this year and for years to come.”

 

Volunteering isn’t just for the youth, however. Seniors get their turn offering a hand with race preparations, as well. Members of the Mercy Memorial Health Center Auxiliary were more than eager to help out with the A2A project.

 

Shelly Antuna is the manager of the Mercy Memorial Health Center Auxiliary. Last year, the auxiliary group volunteered to stuff the information packets the runners receive as they arrive in Ardmore to pick up their registration information and T-shirts.

 

Their job turned out to be a bit more than they anticipated. Originally, they expected to put together about 250 to 300 packets, but when registration virtually exploded, they ended up preparing more than 1,200.

 

“The volunteers are always dedicated to help with whatever they can. They are so open-minded and willing,” Antuna said. “With the cancer center, they wanted to help sponsor the race. Besides stuffing the packets, some of the other volunteers helped with registration.”

 

The group plans to sponsor the race again this year, and also plans to give money directly to the cancer center itself.

 

“They were a magnificent example that you are never too old to give of yourself to a good cause,” Smalley said.

 

Anyone who wants to volunteer is more than welcome to participate, but they must register in a specific area on the Web site www.a2amarathon.com.