Photo by Joe Boyle
Roberto Ortega gives the number one sign as he races in as the winner of the second annual Our Lady of the Ridge School 5K run on Saturday morning. Ortega, who recently competed in the Boston Marathon, won the inaugural Our Lady of the Ridge run in 2016. Cheering him on (center) is Chicago Ridge Trustee Bill McFarland.
Sara Aldworth was hoping more people would come out for the second annual Our Lady of the Ridge 5K run/walk fundraiser Saturday morning despite the crisp temperatures and the expected rain.
But Aldworth, who is a member of the Our Lady of the Ridge School Board, was not complaining. She was just happy that the school was celebrating another run.
“We consider this as a victory lap,” Aldworth said with a smile.
She was referring to the fact that the administration, faculty, students and parents of Our Lady of the Ridge School, 108th and Oxford Ave., Chicago Ridge, were informed in January that they had to increase enrollment and raise more funds or the Chicago Archdiocese would have no alternative but to close the school in June.
School officials were told that they had to raise more than $250,000 by the end of February. After getting over the initial shock, the community and even residents who did not attend Our Lady of the Ridge began to lobby businesses and began spreading the word about the school that Sr. Stephanie Kondik, the longtime principal, described as a “little gem.”
Alumni board members raised more than $100,000 a couple of weeks later. A fundraiser was held in February at 115 Bourbon Street in Merrionette Park. Mary Grisolano, media relations volunteer and graduate of Our Lady of the Ridge, said the school was able to raise $321,500. Enrollment is now at 117 and Grisolano said that those numbers traditionally rise in the spring, especially now that the school will remain open.
“We are ecstatic,” Grisolano said. “We were confident we could do this. Everybody helped out.”
Grisolano, who currently has a child who attends Our Lady of the Ridge and a toddler at home that will also be attending the school, was also present at the second annual run. She said she would be there, rain or shine.
“We have our ponchos ready,” Grisolano said.
The Rev. Wayne Svida, pastor of Our Lady of the Ridge, was also in attendance to cheer the runners and walkers. He took photos of the volunteers who assisted the participants. He also took shots of the runners and walkers. He said he was excited and relieved when he found out Our Lady of the Ridge would remain open.
Svida told parishioners during a Prayer Service of Thanksgiving at the church after they received the good news that “this is about family. We will continue educate young men and women.”
The annual run and walk stepped off at the school’s parking lot. Christina Lavin, a school board member, founded the event last year as a way to raise funds for the school and other ministries. She added that the event brings families together for fellowship and fitness in Chicago Ridge, Worth and surrounding communities.
“We were so excited to have more than 300 people participate (last year),” Lavin said. “Whether they ran or walked, it was fun to see so many people come together to support Our Lady of the Ridge. This year, we’re confident that we will be just as successful and we can’t wait to welcome our runners and walkers to a great, family event.”
Aldworth wore a coat but was positioned at the starting line to cheer on the runners and walkers. She said despite the cold, the turnout was better than expected.
“We wished the weather could have been better,” Aldworth said. “Sometimes people wait to the last minute on a day like this. We will end up with a lot of people.”
Roberto Ortega, 34, a Chicago Ridge resident, was the winner of the race, clocking in at 20:01 and was well ahead of the pack. Ortega, who won the Southwest Half Marathon race in Palos Heights a year ago, also won the inaugural event at Our Lady of the Ridge in 2016. He promised organizers he would be back.
He also competed in the recent Boston Marathon, which he described as a thrilling experience although the temperatures were hot and humid. It made it difficult to finish, he said.
“This is perfect for running,” said Ortega about the Our Lady of the Ridge run. “Temperatures in the 40’s and 50’s are perfect. It helps you stay strong.”
The crowd became larger at the end of the race as participants and spectators moved to the gym to later watch the winners receive their medals. Food was available and a bounce house for the kids was being utilized.
“One this is for sure, this will not be our last 5K race,” added Aldworth.