Although COVID-19 caused a lot of events to be canceled over the last few months, it was no match for the LGBTQ+ Center at Kent State. With everyone’s health and safety in mind, the center has decided to host its first-ever virtual rainbow run to ensure everyone stays safe while partaking in a charitable event.
The LGBTQ+ Center at Kent State is overseen by director Ken Ditlevson who has held the position for six years now. When he began working as the director there was little to no staff and all interns were unpaid. Five years ago, intern Blake decided he wanted to host a charitable event for the center that involved some sort of fitness aspect. After a lot of time, preparation and planning, Blake and Ditlevson were able to host the first-ever Rainbow Run. As the event carried on throughout the years, the event and the turnout have increased drastically, and the center has no desire to slow down anytime soon.
“Trying to do meaningful outreach to the LGBTQ+ community and making sure we do programming that connects with our students is vital to how we run,” Ditlevson said. “The Rainbow Run is a piece of the culture at Kent and will always be one of the things that we are most proud of because of the amount of good it does for the community.”
With the widespread pandemic restricting large gatherings in public spaces, the center decided to host a virtual Rainbow Run this year. Since everyone has busy schedules, the long-time frame open for the race can work for practically anyone. This will be the first year you can complete the run on your favorite trails or even from the comfort of your own neighborhood.
The Rainbow Run is set to begin this Sunday, Oct. 11 which also happens to be National Coming Out Day. The event will run for three weeks ending on Oct. 31. Everyone who signs up to participate in the race will automatically receive a complimentary pride T-shirt. Additionally, there will be prizes awarded to someone who is “Best Dressed in Rainbow” and the “Best Rainbow Pet.” While partaking in the race, the center is urging participants to use the hashtag #KSURainbowRun on all social media platforms so they can keep track of participant’s progress and rainbow looks. Participation in the race only costs $20 for all students and $25 for non-students.
In addition to the virtual Rainbow Run, the LGBTQ+ center is teaming up with Chaarge, another student organization on campus, for a mini socially distanced race. Chaarge is an organization that inspires college women to workout by showing them how fun it can be, especially with friends. The two organizations have partnered up to coordinate a 5k race with six separate races of eight participants each. All in-person waves of races have different starting points to maintain social distancing standards. After you purchase your ticket from the LGBTQ+ Center’s website, you’ll head over to eventbrite where you can select the date you want to participate in.
“Our main concern is making sure everyone is staying safe throughout the race, that’s why we decided to have six mini waves,” Ditlevson said. “I know a lot of students might be feeling a bit lonely on campus right now, so this is a great way for them to get involved for a good cause.”
Sophomore business major Shawn Schreckengost is a board member for the LGBTQ+ center and helps with the marketing portion while also sitting in on meetings to help discuss the direction of the events. While helping plan the race, Schreckengost wanted to make sure people still felt like they’re a part of a community since it couldn’t be held in person.
All proceeds raised from the event will go toward replenishing the center’s security funds which help provide financial assistance to LGBTQ+ students at Kent who are going through unforeseen hardships. Schreckengost said a lot of the times the fund has helped students who have been kicked out of their parents’ homes after finding out they were a part of the LGBTQ+ community. With almost no questions asked, the center will immediately give those students $500 on the spot to make sure they can have a roof over their heads or help pay for tuition.
“There’s still a community of people out there that are here for all LGBTQ+ students and we really want to showcase that during the event,” Schreckengost said. “I think we need this event now more than ever because of how many students have been affected by COVID-19.”
So far this year the center has helped provide funds for 18 students totaling around nine thousand dollars. This has caused the center’s funds to slightly decrease making this event more important than ever. Although some people might not want to physically participate in the race, they do have a place where you can go to donate. Or, if you want to participate and donate extra, you can do that as well. If you want to participate in the race, head over to ksu.convio.net/RainbowRun to sign up today.
“Students gather at this Rainbow Run to be surrounded with love and know that this is a safe place where they can be themselves and be accepted,” Ditlevson said. “The run is a way to truly make a difference in students’ lives and give them a community where they are always welcomed.”
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