The success of the fundraising venture has prompted World Vision to seek more than 1,000 marathon runners for the 2008 event, with a goal of raising more than $1 million for Africa's poor. The Team World Vision program allows participants to create personal Web sites where family and friends can pledge financial support for the runners.
This month, about 500 runners donned the bright orange Team World Vision colors for the marathon, braving oppressive humidity and temperatures that reached 88 degrees — the hottest on record for the 30-year-old event. Still, the adverse conditions failed to curb the enthusiasm of the exhausted runners as they staggered into the Team World Vision tent for post-event refreshments.
"This is one of the top ten things I have ever done in my life," said Dan McGraw, 41, a Naperville, Ill., media consultant, who personally raised more than $3,000.
The fastest Team World Vision woman runner, 29-year-old Ginny Hodel, said she was delighted her time of 3:35:55 would qualify her for the Boston Marathon, but she drew even more satisfaction knowing that her efforts would help the poor.
"I joined Team World Vision because it was a better cause than just running for myself," she said.
Her sentiment was echoed by Eric Flood, 33, who achieved a time of 3:17:23 and was among the first Team World Vision men to finish.
"It's important to understand the Christian gospel is holistic. It's about meeting the needs of the whole person, both physical and spiritual," he said, adding that it was exciting to run as part of a community with a common purpose, rather than in isolation.
Other runners were motivated by personal knowledge of the communities they would be helping.
Ten runners from Springcreek Community Church in Garland, Texas, together raised more than $10,000 for the Katito community in western Kenya, which struggles to access clean water and has hundreds of children with one or both parents who have died of AIDS. The church sponsors about 500 children in Katito through World Vision.
"Our members came because of their strong feeling of connection to these kids," said Keith Stewart, 45, Springcreek's pastor who was among the church's runners.
>> Praise God for the $500,000 that was raised for children and families in Africa. Pray that more people would be inspired to join the effort next year and that Team World Vision would meet its new goal in 2008 of more than 1,000 participants and more than $1 million raised.
>> Join Team World Vision and sign up to participate in the next Chicago Marathon on Oct. 12, 2008.
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