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We Care employees raise money for its food pantry at Foodie 5K

Published: Monday, April 14, 2014 9:11 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 9:35 p.m. CDT
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(Heidi Litchfield – hlitchfield@shawmedia.com)
Denise Gaska of We Care of Grundy County runs in the inaugural Foodie 5K in Wheaton for the Northern Illinois Food Bank on Saturday.

WHEATON – With demands for food increasing at We Care of Grundy County, employees decided to run for the hills – well, one hill – in Wheaton where more than 1,100 people showed up Saturday at the inaugural Foodie 5K race for Northern Illinois Food Bank.

The Foodie 5K race for Northern Illinois Food Bank presented by Athletico was held at Cantigny Park in Wheaton. We Care Executive Director Denise Gaska and employees Lori Sandgren and Wendy Easson participated.

"We wanted to support Northern Illinois Food Bank and their fundraising," Gaska said. "It was their first time hosting a 5K and I've participated in 5K's before."

Gaska, who hasn't ran in a 5K for over a year, said the event motivated her to see how she would do after having surgery on her knee last October.

Easson also had knee surgery six weeks ago and competed in the event walking quickly while using a cane.

She said she had to cheat and couldn't do the full 5K, but felt accomplished she could do one lap around the two-lap course that winded through the park setting.

Sandgren said when she was asked to participate, she thought it would be a fun team-building exercise for the three women who work closely together providing food through the We Care pantry.

"I've never done one before," Sandgren said. "It was a goal I set for myself for this year. I've never been able to physically do a 5K."

The run raised nearly $90,000 for NIFB, with some of the proceeds going directly to the pantries that chose to participate.

"We raised $1,505 for We Care," Gaska said. "That covers a lot of food, just over $12,000 worth at retail prices."

NIFB is able to provide $8 retail value worth of food for every $1 donated.

The money raised by We Care went into its account with NIFB and will make up the difference for two months worth of food after receiving its $750 donation for "Fill the Pantry" from community partners.

"It was a gorgeous day, and we were able to raise enough to fill the pantry for two whole months," Sandgren said. "I would do it again."

Donna Lake, director of communications at NIFB, said the organization was extremely pleased with the tremendous turn out that caused them to close registrations mid-March because they had reached capacity for the race.

"We are looking at making this an annual event," Lake said. "It helped tens of thousands of our hungry neighbors."

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