Quite often, community events named after a citizen are memorial events held in that person’s honor.
But occasionally, an individual makes such an impact that an event is named in his or her honor – while that person is still very much engaged.
That’s the case for the Bob Blazier Run for the Arts, an annual 5K/1-mile race that benefits Raue Center for the Arts in Crystal Lake. This year’s race starts at 8 a.m. on Sunday, May 5, right outside Raue Center, at 26 N. Williams St.
“I don’t think it’s usual practice to name a race after someone who’s still living, but Bob is by no means a usual person,” says James Knight, race director and economic development manager for Raue Center. “His civic engagement and his leadership in the community are exemplary.”
Blazier, 92, a former superintendent of Crystal Lake Elementary School District 47 and former Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce president, helped found the Raue Center for the Arts Foundation more than two decades ago.
“I was on the first board, and we really just were struggling to make everything go,” Blazier recalls. “So, when the chamber announced they were going to have a race in my honor and I could pick the recipient, I thought of the Raue right away.”
Now in its 22nd year, the race will continue to fund Raue programming, Knight says. In particular, this year’s proceeds will support the theater’s growing educational programs, including its two flagship programs: Mission Imagination, which brings busloads of children into the theater, and Sage Studio, which provides professionally taught theater classes to children ages 7 to 17.
“I spent 36 years in education as a teacher and administrator, so I think that’s a good way to apply the funds,” Blazier says.
“The Mission Imagination program is something I think is a real opportunity, exposing a lot of children to live theater,” he adds. “I know they have access with internet and television, but there’s something about the actual performance in the theater that means something to them.”
In an elevated, hands-on educational experience, Raue’s in-house professional theater company, Williams Street Repertory, plans to cast children in its 2019 productions, including “Emma,” Disney’s “Freaky Friday,” and “Addams Family,” giving young actors and actresses professional exposure.
Various studies have shown that exposure to the arts helps students not only with their writing and language skills, but also in more concrete subjects like math and science, Knight says.
“Being able to flex your creative muscles helps your test scores in other areas of school,” he says. “Besides that, working together in the arts with your classmates fosters a greater sense of empathy about who you are and what you can bring to a group. And kids who get involved in arts and education wind up more civically minded.”
In many ways, Blazier has melded the arts, education, exercise and philanthropy in his nearly 60 years in Crystal Lake. The longtime jazz drummer still works out six days a week, though after 45,000 miles, he’s been advised by his doctor to stop running, Blazier says. He’s a former vice president of marketing and education for Northern Illinois Medical Center in McHenry (now Northwestern Medicine McHenry Hospital), and he helped found the Centegra Foundation, Friends of McHenry County College, Crystal Lake Chamber Foundation, District 47 Foundation and more.
He still works at Home State Bank as a business relations community officer.
“He’s an extraordinary civic leader,” Knight says. “The legacy he’s creating is unmatched. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone, anywhere who’s had a bigger or more varied impact than Bob.”
More than 300 participants are expected at this year’s annual race, which features a chip-timed 5K run; Rosie’s 1-mile walk (named after Blazier’s 91-year-old wife, Rosemary); and a 50-yard dash for kids.
Registration fees are $30 for the 5K and $20 for the 1-mile before April 21; $35 for the 5K and $25 for the 1-mile from April 21 through 30; and $40 for the 5K and $30 for the 1-mile from May 1 through race day.
On-site registration begins at 7 a.m.; the 5K shotgun start is at 8 a.m.; the 1-mile walk shotgun start is at 8:10 a.m.; and the 50-yard dash starts at 8:45 a.m. Awards will be presented at 9 a.m. under the Raue Center’s marquee.
Packet pickup takes place May 3 and 4, from noon to 4 p.m., at The Running Depot, 30-H N. Williams St., in downtown Crystal Lake.
To sign up, visit rauecenter.org. ❚