The Kiwanis Club of Bainbridge Island is sometimes overshadowed by its big brother – the Rotary Club, which just wound up its annual Auction and Rummage Sale this past weekend – but it’s members are no less committed to serving the community in myriad ways.
One of its signature annual events – The All Comers Track Meet – begins tonight, July 10, at the Woodward Middle School track. Registration for the free event – aimed for runners of all ages – begins at 5:30 p.m., with races starting at 6 p.m. The club will hold the meet at the same time and place every Monday evening through August 14.
“We like the openness and the track at Woodward,” says John Jay, a long-time Kiwanis member who has been involved in helping organize the meet for the past dozen years or so. “It’s a huge family event. We get 200 to 400 people (coming out) every Monday.”
The track meet includes 50, 100 and 400 meter dashes, a 50 and 100 meter hurdles event, a 4 x 100 meter relay, and the mile run that “everyone” can participate in. “The objective,” notes Jim Copen, chair of the event, “is to try and run to your predictive time, which each runner writes down beforehand.”
“As the season goes by we tally up the winners and give them a medal,” adds Jay. “The kids love seeing their names in the newspaper.”
Former Bainbridge High School cross-country coach Paul Benton, serves as the All Comers Meet race director, handling the mechanics of staging the individual events, with Kiwanis members serving in a support role.
The meet is sponsored by Bainbridge Senior Living, West Sound Physical Therapy and Windermere/Chris Miller, along with a dozen other smaller sponsors, says Miller, himself a Kiwanian. The sponsorship dollars help “offset the cost of doing the event and allows us to keep it free,” he explains. “We do these events to bring people together, not necessarily for profit.”
“Kiwanis is about kids,” adds the club’s current president Hank Keaton, echoing the international organization’s motto of “Improving the World, One Child, one Community at a Time”
The meet is truly for all ages. Thus far, the oldest person who regularly shows up is an 84-year-old man from Bremerton, who goes way out of his way to get to the meet. He takes the Bremerton ferry to Seattle, and then hops aboard the Bainbridge bound ferry from Seattle, Jay recounts, “and we pick him up and take him to the meet.” He then does the reserve commute to return home.
Perhaps the most entertaining participants are a bunch of two-year-olds, who run and jump over miniature hurdles. “It’s the cutest thing you’ve ever seen,” says Miller, sporting a broad smile and laugh.
Then there is the annual appearance of a Bainbridge accountant, who runs along while pushing a stroller with his granddaughter inside accompanied by his own daughter. “It’s something people really look forward to,” says Jay of the meet.
“Jim (Copen) did a superb job of writing up our event,” Jay says, noting that the club’s effort is attracting the district’s Lieutenant Governor, who will be at Monday’s meet to honor them.
Besides the All Comers Track Meet, the 21-member Kiwanis Club – which meets every Wednesday evening at 6 p.m. at the Boys & Girls Club in the Coppertop Business Park – the non-profit organization also does a number of other events during the course of the year. These include:
- The Shred Fest – Presented in partnership with Columbia Bank. Residents are encouraged to bring documents for shredding – typically held the second Saturday after tax day – April 15th. And the club has added a second Shred Fest “lite” in mid-October. The event is free but donations are gratefully accepted and all funds raised go towards the Bainbridge Kiwanis Foundation, which funds scholarships and other community service activities.
- Grand Old Fourth – Kiwanians host the always-popular “putt putt” miniature golf course in Waterfront Park. All proceeds go towards the Foundation.
- Wreath Sales – Club members sell wreaths during the holiday season at Bainbridge retail outlets. All sales of the club’s locally made wreaths benefit the Foundation and scholarship fund for graduating high school seniors.
In addition, the Kiwanis oversees the international Key Club at Bainbridge High School, where students work on a variety of fundraising projects, as well as a Builders Club at the middle school level. The groups have collected books to be shipped to Third World countries or have helped make dog blankets that are then donated to PAWS, among other projects.
At the end of the day, however, the All Comers Track Meet is the driving force behind the Kiwanis Club’s outreach efforts. “We use it to get exposure and (hopefully) drive (new) membership,” says Miller.
To learn more about the Bainbridge Island Kiwanis Club, visit: https://www.bikiwanis.org
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