CONWAY — The location of Freezin’ for a Reason is new this year, but the purpose hasn’t changed: to raise money for Arkansas Children’s Hospital and honor the memory of the race founder’s two daughters.
The second annual 5K/10K and 2K family fun run will be Feb. 1 at the Bill Stephens Track and Soccer Complex at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.
The 5K/10K races will begin at 9 a.m., and the family 2K will begin at 10:45.
A pre-race pasta party will be held from 6-8 p.m. Jan. 31 at First United Methodist Church, 1610 Prince St., in the Trinity Building.
The Faulkner County Chapter of Circle of Friends sponsors the race to benefit Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
“Last year, we were wonderfully surprised at how supportive the community was and how they responded to it,” said Mary Spears-Polk, race director.
“We expected, at best, 200 racers, and we had 900,” she said.
The event raised $30,000. This year, the goal is 1,000 participants and $35,000.
The event is held in memory of the daughters of Amanda and Travis Mulhearn of Conway. Charlotte and Stella Mulhearn died of unrelated causes five years apart.
“That’s always going to be the foundation of this race,” Spears-Polk said.
Amanda came up with the idea of the race in memory of her daughters.
Charlotte died in 2007 at 6 weeks old of a rare viral infection in her heart. Two years later, the Mulhearns had Stella. She died of a malignant brain tumor on April 3, 2012, about two weeks after she turned 3.
Amanda said Arkansas Children’s Hospital gave the couple’s daughters the best treatment available, just 30 minutes from home. Because of the hospital’s proximity, she and Travis could continue to care for their son, Davis, now 9.
“Neither one of my experiences ended the way I wanted them …, but that wasn’t because of the hospital,” Amanda said in an earlier interview. She said the care their daughters received at the hospital was “unmatched,” and the staff became like family.
“There are still staff members we are connected to because of this experience,” she said last week. “I still get nurses checking on me, seeing how I’m doing. It went beyond a doctor-patient or nurse-patient relationship. These people took care of us, especially the days we found out our daughters were going to die.
“To find out a nurse had requested to be in your room because they’d been through this process with you, to hold your hand. … Their job is so difficult, yet they care so much. For people to connect to you and care that much and still continue to do their job each day — it’s such a gift. It’s such a blessing to have people like that working there.”
The race is a way to give back, Amanda said.
“It’s about giving back so we can tell them, ‘You guys really made a difference in our lives,’” she said. “I want them to know how much … we love them.”
Amanda said her goal is to see the race supported statewide.
“I don’t want it to be just about our girls,” she said. “I want it to be about our state and our community coming together to support this great hospital that we have right here in our own backyard.
“Ultimately, it’s about ACH and being able to keep it at that level and bring in doctors and nurses from all over the country and the world.”
She said a new aspect of this year’s race is race teams.
Amanda also said she’s excited about the race’s revamped website, www.freezinforareason.org.
“One thing I like about the website, if you want to get online and make a donation to the team, you can do that,” she said.
People can make donations from anywhere and not participate in the race.
“If you live in Nebraska, you can make a $20 donation,” she said.
Amanda said she has a competition going with her sister and best friend, Emily Lowrey of Fort Smith, to see who can raise the most money.
“My sister has started a team outside of my own, and my one big push is to beat her financially,” Amanda said.
Amanda said she has signed up for the 5K, and Travis is registered for the 10K.
The registration fee is $25 for the 2K or 5K, and $30 for the 10K. Registration the day of the event will be $35 for all races.
Spears-Polk said kids 12 and younger can participate in the 2K at no charge, but fundraising is encouraged.
“We have disposable chips this year for timing and mat start,” Spears-Polk said. “Your time for the race won’t start till you cross the mat.”
She said race packets may be picked up in the Trinity Building at First United Methodist Church the day before the race or at UCA the morning of the race.
Tickets for the pasta party are $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under.
Go to www.freezinforareason.org for race registration and pasta party tickets.
The deadline is Wednesday to register and “get a T-shirt in the size you want,” Spears-Polk said.
T-shirts are available for those 13 and older.
Spears-Polk said festivities before and after the race include a bounce house for kids, games and hot chocolate.
“We’ll have face painting, and we’ll have a firetruck out there,” she said.
Arkansas Children’s Hospital will have a community outreach booth there, too, Spears-Polk said.
The location was moved because the Conway High School field house is being renovated, she said.
“We were happy that UCA could accommodate us this year,” Spears-Polk said. “I am hoping that it will be good weather for running.”
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.