Taking small steps for a big cause



July 9, 2012

Homepage photo: Carl Sundberg, Lynn Fred, Greg Sundberg

Before he took more than 25,000 small steps Sunday, Greg Sundberg, the executive director of the Grizzly Scholarship Association, took a big one months ago, and the Jadyn Fred Foundation is today the beneficiary.

In 2011 Sundberg and his dad, Carl, decided: Let's walk the Missoula Half Marathon together. Good exercise, great opportunity to spend some time together.

Sunday at the 2012 Missoula Half Marathon, father and son did the same thing. But this year they did it eight minutes faster and for a cause larger than just themselves.

"The first year we did it as a father and son to have some fun together," Sundberg said. "This year we decided to continue the fun but get more people involved and do some good."

The good, they decided, would be to raise money for the Jadyn Fred Foundation, a local organization that provides financial assistance to deserving Montana families with children who have medical needs that require mostly out-of-state care.

The foundation was started by Britt and Alecia Fred in 2001, shortly after the death of their daughter, Jadyn, who was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer at the age of 3. During their own trials the Freds experienced firsthand what they hope their foundation can help eliminate.

"Britt wanted to start the foundation because he saw the decisions some Montana families had to make when traveling out of state for medical care," said Lynn Fred, Britt's father and the current driving force behind the foundation.

"They saw people living in their cars or children without any family around at all because they couldn't afford it."

The foundation has given out $340,000 since 2001 and assisted 295 families in the areas of transportation, prescriptions and medical procedures that are not covered by insurance.

And if that was not enough of a connection for Sundberg, the father of two young sons, there is this: Britt Fred was a defensive end for the Grizzlies in the late 80s and early 90s.

"We picked the Jadyn Fred Foundation because it's a small, local charity doing some great things," Sundberg said. "Both my dad and I thought it would be a great nonprofit to help out."

Through donations and a half dozen more runners and walkers taking to the course Sunday for the same cause, Team Sundberg raised just over $800 for the foundation.

A modest figure, but "any dollar raised is a dollar more than we had before," Lynn Fred says. "We've gotten (donations of) $100,000 to $10,000 to $5. It's all good, because it all goes to the children."

The foundation's mission is to make a difference, one life at a time. After this year's fundraising success, Team Sundberg may be adopting something similar: Making a difference, one race at a time.

The three-race Missoula Marathon weekend once again inspired Griz athletes, coaches and staff members to either participate as runners or assist as volunteers.

Eight raced, highlighted by academic services coordinator Darr Tucknott's seventh-place finish in the half marathon in a time of 1:27:58.

Also running the half marathon were women's tennis coach Steve Ascher (1:49:48), assistant volleyball coach Allison Lawrence (1:49:53) and women's soccer coach Mark Plakorus (1:52:06).

Marketing director Christie Anderson ran and walked her way to a 2:52 finish, a 26-minute improvement from her 2011 effort, and the Sundbergs came in at 3:19.

Women's golf coach Emily Milberger was the lone staffer to tackle the full marathon. She crossed the line in 4:39:29 and x'ed an item off her bucket list in her debut effort at the 26.2-mile distance.

Assistant sports information director Joel Carlson was the only staffer to race Saturday morning's 5k. He finished seventh in a time of 18:38 and on Sunday was a pace runner for the marathon's 3:30 aspirants.

Former Griz athletes were also well represented. Colin Fehr, a recent men's tennis and track athlete, won the marathon in a time of 2:32:39. Former track athlete Casey Weinman came through in 3:01:38.

Dan Bingham, the 2006 Big Sky Conference steeplechase champion, ran a 1:24:00 half marathon, Brooke Andrus a 1:28:34.

Baily Cox, the 2007 Big Sky heptathlon champion, ran a 1:42:21, and former soccer player Nawal Kirts finished in 1:44:32.

Manning the mile-5/18 aid station for the second straight year were members of the Montana soccer team. Assistant coach Sophie Clough worked, as did players Lauren Costa, Erin Craig, Kristen Hoon, Lauren McCreath and Kate Wilkins.

Official Griz Gear