By Elizabeth Schaller
Viterbo Days is a weekend-long event in October that provides opportunities for students, alumni, and La Crosse community members to gather on campus and participate in a wide variety of events. One such Viterbo Days event is the Friar Frolic 5K Run/Walk, which is back for its third year.
The 5K Run/Walk will be held on Saturday, Oct. 12 at 9 a.m. Registration will be open until the race starts. The route begins and ends on Viterbo’s campus near the Mathy Center clock tower. The race is meant to sponsor the Viterbo Food Pantry, which is located on the second floor of the Fine Arts Center.
The Viterbo Food Pantry, located in room 207 in the Fine Arts Center, is a converted coat closet. The only indication of its existence is a small sign taped to the door.
“It is the Franciscan spirit of hospitality to be able to provide [the food pantry] for the students,” said Kathy Duerwachter, the Viterbo director of alumni relations. “A lot of people are unaware Viterbo has a food pantry, and this race gets the word out there,” she explained.
Brieanna Hansche, a senior sports management and leadership major from Melrose, Wis., is helping plan the Friar Frolic as part of her Events and Facilities Management course.
“I didn’t know [the food pantry] existed until this class,” she said.
“When our class took a tour of the pantry, it was starting to get pretty empty. There were diapers, lots of boxes of macaroni and cheese and some coffee, too,”
Hansche said. “The pantry uses the honor system. If you need [an item], you walk in and take it. There is not an [official sign-out form] because people can feel self-conscious about needing help.”
Viterbo’s food pantry was created in the 1980s when Sister Arita Dopkins, FSPA, and Tom Thibodeau, director of Servant Leadership and associate professor of Religious Studies, noticed there were students in need on campus.
“Students seemed to be struggling with the decision to either purchase all of their textbooks or buy food,” Duerwachter said.
She explained that the food pantry eventually received a grant to supplement donations, but it still relies heavily on the generosity of others, she added.
Viterbo’s Campus Ministry recently took over the management of the food pantry from the Honors Program. The group is in charge of organizing the shelves and using monetary donations to shop for items the food pantry needs. Other than stocking the pantry and handling donations, Campus Ministry will not supervise the use of it, Duerwachter said.
“The Friar Frolic is the major [campus event] that puts food in there…or tries to anyway,” Hansche stated.
The Friar Frolic 5K Run/Walk was an idea that started with the MBA alumni chapter., which “met and discussed their desire to do a 5K on campus to promote healthy living,” Duerwachter said.
The race was initially designated to raise funds for a scholarship. While planning for its second year, the race committee became aware of the food pantry on Viterbo’s campus and switched the race’s focus, Duerwachter said.
The registration forms for the race ask that participants bring non-perishable food items to stock the pantry shelves. A space on the form allows for participants to make monetary donations.
The registration fee for the race covers the cost of acquiring the appropriate race permits and provides T-shirts for participants and volunteers, Duerwachter said.
“Any money that is left over after expenses will go straight to the food pantry,” she added. “It will all depend on the number of runners.”
Last year, 170 runners registered for the Friar Frolic, but the race was eventually cancelled due to inclement weather. This year, registration is at less than a third of last year’s, Hansche said.
“We would love to have 100 percent participation, or have everyone from the Viterbo community attend in some way,” Duerwachter said.
“One thing I like about the event is that it’s inter-generational,” Duerwachter said. “It is neat whenever students and alumni can participate in the same event. There is always a neat energy.”
There is still time for Viterbo community members to register and get involved.
“People can participate in the 5K, stop by and leave food pantry donations or cheer on the other runners,” Hansche said.
In addition to donating through the Friar Frolic 5K Run/Walk, people can drop off items for the food pantry anonymously in room 207 and Institutional Advancement will collect checks and monetary donations any time.