By Todd Travis
The seventh annual Rock the Block run is coming up on April 23. The volunteer-run event helps to raise money for local organizations that give back to the Center Grove and Johnson County community. The event will include a 10K timed run, a 5K walk/run and a free kids run. Erin Smith, one of the event coordinators and owner of Spotlight Strategies, is expecting a healthy turnout for the race this year. “This year we have eight organizations that are competing for the grant dollars, and they have each had 20 runners/walkers and five volunteers sign up. We’re hoping to raise about $30,000 to give back to the organizations who are a part of the event this year.” Smith projected.
Making an impact
Rock the Block primarily impacts organizations that work with youth and families. Among those are KIC-IT, which support the homeless youth in Johnson County, and Resources of Hope, which provides resources to meet the needs of foster youth living in central Indiana. The event also looks to address the Center Grove community directly. “We wanted to find a way to give back to the Center Grove community specifically, so we work through the Center Grove Education Foundation.” Smith noted. “They provide smaller organizations an opportunity to compete at a level that they may not have had access to receiving grants for otherwise.” she added. Another way the Rock the Block run has been able to give back is through trail projects. Working with five different businesses and Johnson County, they contributed to the beautification of the roundabout at State Road 144 and Whiteland Road.
A dedicated volunteer shares his experience
Howard Harrell has been volunteering for Rock the Block since its first year. As the long-time cross-country coach at Center Grove High School, Harrell had been looking for more races to take place in the Center Grove area. So when Erin Smith approached him with the opportunity to volunteer with the run he jumped at the chance. Harrell has the vital role of being in charge of registration for the event. During registration, he helps pass out the bibs and T-shirts and more importantly, he helps direct people to the various points of the race such as starting line, water stations and bathrooms. “I love helping out, but I also know I’m actually helping the team and the community at the same time,” Harrell shared.
As the head of registration, Harrell has become somewhat of a celebrity at the event. “It’s kinda like my ‘Cheers’,” Harrel joked, referencing the TV show’s theme song, “Where everybody knows your name.” His most memorable race was his first race seven years ago. “As great as the race was, the time after the race was what I most enjoyed.” Harrell recalled. “It’s hard to put into words unless you’ve experienced it yourself.” He likened the post-race activities to a festival where people spend time hanging out, enjoying music and connecting with other local organizations and people. “Most people plan to stay for a couple hours afterwards, not because they have to but because they want to,” Harrell mentioned. “I also love to see how people come to the event for all different reasons. Some people come to actually race, others come to walk or run and still others just come to support the organizations or just to socialize with friends.”
Fun for the family
Harrell grew up in Kokomo, Ind. before meeting his wife, Linda, through a mutual friend. When he got engaged, he knew he would likely end up moving down to Center Grove because of Linda’s connection with her twin sister. “I knew there was no way I was going to separate her from her twin. They are just connected,” Harrell said. As luck would have it, the middle school track coach resigned the first week of the school year when Harrell moved down Center Grove. He had contacted the coaches to let them know he was available and ended up getting that job much sooner than he expected. “It was almost like it was meant to be,” Harrell remarked. After three years as the middle school track coach he took over as the varsity coach and has held that position for over 20 years. Harrell’s whole family has participated in the race every year. He has a son, Andrew, as well as triplet daughters, Gabrielle, Marielle and Danielle. “One of my daughters, Gabrielle, has actually won the 10K once or twice,” Harrell said.
This year attendance is projected to be around 1,500 people with most registrations coming in April. To find more info about the event or any of the participating organizations you can visit rocktheblockrun.org. On the site, you can register for the race, find out how to volunteer and how to be a sponsor.