Organizers of Downers Grove's beloved annual Thanksgiving Day race, the Bonfield Express 5K, celebrated its 10th anniversary this year, and marked the occasion with additional scholarships—and record registration.
This year's race attracted 6,200 runners, which topped last year's turnout of 6,000.
The race began in 2004 to honor the memory of Downers Grove South father, teacher, dean and coach Jim Bonfield and works to further his message of character, community and commitment.
The top male finishers in today’s Bonfield Express 5K were:
- Ryan Clevenger of Downers Grove
- Aaron Silver also of Downers Grove
- Dan Phistry of Westmont
- Sarah Jane Kerwin
- Krista Moylan of Palos Park
- 3. Alyssa Poremba of Bridgeview
The scene on Main Street in downtown Downers Grove before the race got underway was chilly but decidedly upbeat as groups of racers sprinted from group to group, gathering to share the latest news with neighbors, friends and loved ones.
"We go our separate ways for the day so we’re making this our Thanksgiving tradition,” said Patti Schwartz of Carol Stream who came to Downers Grove to participate with her brother and his family.
Kathy Bosco, of Downers Grove, is not surprised by the huge outpouring of emotion for a man who gave so much to his community. She knew Jim Bonfield since their high school years and described him as “a tribute to all that’s right in the world. Until the day he died, he was an inspiration and kept a positive outlook, always thinking of others first,” she explained.
A true charm of the Bonfield Express is that is attracts not only competitive runners but also a large cross section of the community who turn out to walk and socialize with others in their community on Thanksgiving morning.
To kick off the race, Elizabeth Brunell and Anna Burton, both students at Downers Grove North High School, sang a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem for the assembled crowd.
Then, Grant Crist, a 2011 Downers Grove North graduate and Bonfield scholarship recipient, had the honor of sounding the horn that signaled the start of the race. Crist, who is home recuperating from a bicycle accident last summer in Australia which left him critically injured, will resume his studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder next semester.
Crist wanted to “fulfill the Bonfield message of community” by coaching for his former cross-country team at Downers Grove North when he returned home. “I wanted to foster that community aspect and encourage the runners to pursue their dreams. They came together for me, and I was just paying it back,” Crist explained.
Annette Bonfield, president of the Bonfield Express Foundation and widow of Jim Bonfield, thanked the community for their support before the start of the race. “Because you have supported us as a community of participants, sponsors and volunteers, the Bonfield Express Foundation has given over $200,000 in scholarships to more than 100 high school seniors since 2004,” Bonfield said.
“And because this is our 10th anniversary, we plan to give away 10 additional scholarships to spread our message of character, community and commitment even further. In this season of giving thanks, we gratefully acknowledge everyone who has been a part of making our program possible over the past 10 years. We couldn’t have done it without you,” Bonfield added.
A post-race party was held in the Downers Grove Parking Garage and featured complimentary food and beverages by Whole Foods and Caribou Coffee. A complimentary “Massage in the Garage,” provided by the Sohmar School of Holistic Massage and Therapy, was popular with race participants as well.
Since 2004, the Bonfield Express Foundation has distributed more than $200,000 in scholarships to more than 100 west suburban seniors attending high school at Downers Grove North, Downers Grove South, Hinsdale Central, Hinsdale South, Lisle, and Westmont high schools.