CU at Home's One Winter Night


This year's CU @ Home "One Winter Night" event raised more than $220,000 for the organization that strives to help our friends without an address.  More than 200 "box dwellers" slept outside on a cold February night to raise money for the organization and awareness about homelessness. In the event's headquarters, there were speakers scheduled all evening, a snack/warming station for the box dwellers, and a new addition this year -- a children's corner with storytelling and crafts. At a separate location, there were also regular showings of the documentary "The Phoenix: Hope is Rising" all throughout the night. Since the very first One Winter Night several years ago, I have volunteered as a photographer for the event and today I'm sharing my favorite photos from the 2017 event. spreading the word about homelessness for our friends without an address volunteers holding donation signs one winter night community event box dwellers sleeping outside in February volunteers sleeping in cardboard boxes in downtown Champaign volunteers eat sack lunches at One Winter Night

St. Jude Run | Mason City to Peoria event + sports photography


I got the chance to once again photograph the Mason City to Peoria St. Jude run on July 30, and it was a fantastic day! It was a bit cooler than some runs in the past, and was overcast for most of the morning. The group of 71 runners raised $168,000 for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, and a total of $817,000 since the start of the run 7 years ago -- amazing!! The group runs a total of about 55 miles throughout the course of the day, on a few different "teams," divided into experienced runners to shorter distance runners who run the shorter legs and through the towns. The day starts at 5:30am when the team stretches and gets ready to leave from the Illini Central parking lot in Mason City at 5:45. They run through the town, led by a Mason City fire truck, and is cheered on by many spectators as they run through the town to the cemetery at the other end. We always stop to pray and lay flowers at the grave of Jessie Baugher, our team captain who was a St. Jude patient.

The rest of the morning is spent running a zig-zag through rural Mason County to San Jose, where the group stops for a light breakfast, bathroom breaks, and a short rest. Then it's north off to Green Valley where we stop for lunch, and organizers Nancy and Zach Baugher, Jessie's mom and brother, announce the final donation total. Following lunch, we head toward Pekin on a few more dangerous roads, so extra precautions are taken for the safety of the runners. We stop in Pekin at Tractor Supply for another short rest, and the rest of the run from there is mostly through towns with more traffic and we occasionally see other runs heading for Peoria The final rest point is in East Peoria where we regroup and runners change into the official shirts for the year (the teal with bright green/white text) to get ready to cross the bridge over the Illinois River into Peoria and to the civic center.

This year we had a couple of hiccups that were unusual, but everyone pulled together, made the best of it and found a solution to make the run a success. The first problem was the "Sag Wag" (the church van that goes directly behind the runners to carry those who need to catch their breath for a bit), overheated and had to be left on the side of the road. Luckily there was a jeep in the caravan that was easily converted into a smaller sort of "sag wag." Not ideal, but it worked! The second problem was the bridge we came upon that had a weight limit posted that wouldn't have held the two charter buses that are used to transport those who aren't currently running. The run route continued as normal, and the charter buses were rerouted around to meet them on the other side. Problem solved!

Congrats again to all the runners & thank you for your support of St. Jude!! Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the post to see a slideshow I made (including a few video clips!). :)

running through the four-way in Mason City

police escort on a Mason County country road

thumbs up for St. Jude

running the silent 1-mile leg of the run

runners stop in San Jose for rest and fruit

relaxing at the San Jose firehouse

setting up cones for runner safety

Mason County sheriff police escort

running into Green Valley for lunch break

rally at lunch to hear the final total

cheering on runners during a runner exchange

crossing at a busy intersection

Tractor Supply hosts a runner oasis every year

ready to roll again with Jessie's flag

crossing over the Bob Michel bridge into Peoria

Mason City St. Jude Run from Holly Smith on Vimeo.