8/15/2008 9:58:00 AM First Mary Mile Weekend brings community together
A plaque was given to the Hartzheim family that proclaimed Aug. 9 “Mary Hartzheim Day” in Minocqua, Saturday at Torpy Park. To the left is Mary’s mom Mary and the husband of the late Mary Terese Hartzheim, Fred Herlitz.
The first installment of the Mary Mile Weekend raised funds for vital cancer research, brought a community together, and honored the memory of one of Minocqua's most beloved sports figures.
The event was created by the Mary Terese Hartzheim Foundation. Hartzheim, who was from Minocqua, died from a rare form of cancer in 2005.
The foundation's main objective is to raise funds to battle cancer, especially for children stricken with the disease. Another goal for the organization, is help to foster the hopes and dreams of young people.
The weekend kicked off with a golf outing Friday morning at Timber Ridge Golf Club, which was preceded by a picnic-style dinner at Torpy Park.
The event culminated with the Mary Mile Run/Walk on Saturday. The run featured three races - two for adults and one for kids.
Overall, Fred Herlitz, Mary's husband thought the weekend was a success.
"For the first time doing the Mary Mile, I think it was a good day," Herlitz said. "We had a good turn out. It was so fun to see the community involvement, and it was fun to see family and friends (of Mary's) involved in the event. We were really interested in being all-inclusive. We had walkers, we had baby joggers and we had elite-level runners, so it was a well-rounded event and we were very, very pleased."
One of the runners was former Olympian Suzy Favor-Hamilton, who won the elite race. As a track star in high school, Favor-Hamilton competed against Hartzheim. In 1986, the two standout runners joined the University of Wisconsin women's track team and became close friends.
"I just feel so blessed to have met Mary and to be a part of the (Hartzheim) family. They are just the most wonderful people," Favor-Hamilton said. "When I think of Minocqua, I automatically think of the Hartzheims. And being here this weekend has been incredibly special, you just feel the presence of Mary here. It's a very, warm wonderful feeling, being in Minocqua."
After Mary's death, Favor-Hamilton vowed to live life like her cherished friend. She wanted to enjoy all life has to offer and spread joy onto others.
Before the start of the elite race, Favor-Hamilton brought a pack of about 15 runners together in a huddle and offered words of encouragement.
"I miss Mary so much. But just being here in Minocqua feels so right," Favor-Hamilton said. "She was the kind of person that if everyone would be like Mary, the world would be an amazing place. To do anything in her name and in her honor, I will be there."
Saturday's run was followed by a raffle at Torpy Park. There was also an awards presentation for the races' top finishers.
The morning ended with the Hartzheim family receiving a special honor from the community - Aug. 9 will now be known as "Mary Hartzheim Day" in Minocqua.
"I think (Mary) would have been very pleased to see that there was togetherness. There were a variety of families that traveled great distances to get here," Herlitz said. "She would have looked at today as a celebration of her life and I think she would have appreciated that."
Herlitz awoke early on Saturday morning to make sure everything was prepared well, so the day's events would run smoothly. He received a premonition from above that made him feel at ease.
"I looked up in the sky and there was a rainbow," Herlitz said. "I thought that was a note to me that we are doing a good thing and I want to come back next year and do it even better."
Herlitz and the MTH Foundation are already thinking about next year's "Mary Mile Weekend."
"We talked about maybe bringing the course straight into town, rather than going around the lake," Herlitz said. "So we're thinking about altering the course a little bit, but we certainly want to keep the mile race. Maybe add something a little bit longer, like a 5K race. We would also like to get the word out earlier and try to increase our numbers in terms of participation."
For more information about the MTH Foundation, log on to www.mthfoundation.org or call 1-866-MTH-5737.
Kevin Damask can be reached at email@example.com.