Photo by Joe Boyle
The runners take off from the starting line during the eighth annual Sully Shuffle 5K Run and 3K Walk in Oak Lawn Sunday morning.
The Sully Shuffle 5K Run and 3K Walk picked up where it left after a year’s absence. Clear skies and sunny weather provided a perfect backdrop to take part in or watch the annual event.
“It is a great day, just perfect,” said Skip “Sully” Sullivan before the race and walk began.
Sullivan is a lifelong resident of Oak Lawn and a graduate of Oak Lawn Community High School, where he starred in several sports. He later returned to his alma mater to teach and coach. He served as the varsity baseball coach for many years at the school and most recently was an assistant varsity girls basketball coach there. He has also served as an assistant football and golf coach at Oak Lawn.
Sullivan has been battling Parkinson’s disease for the past 13 years. The race and run is held in his name with funds raised from the event going to the American Parkinson Disease Association Midwest Chapter.
Friends, relatives and colleagues say that Sullivan’s optimism is the reason why they come to support the cause each year.
“I feel very good,” said Sullivan, who greets runners and walkers as they cross the finish line. “I keep busy. I play basketball twice a week.”
The annual run and walk is a neighborhood event. The race and run begins and finishes near 94th and Austin Avenue alongside Oak Lawn Community High School. The runners and walkers follow different paths but can be seen along neighborhood streets in Oak Lawn.
Janet Haubenreiser Meyers, president of the Sully Shuffle Foundation, has been the chief organizer of the event, which is now in its eighth year. The Sully Shuffle was not held last year due to a personal tragedy in Meyers’ life. Her sister died last year, leaving behind 8-year-old twins that Meyers and her husband have taken guardianship of. She also has a 1-year-old and 4-year-old. Her responsibilities now included making a home for her sister’s kids, and she could not commit to organizing the Sully Shuffle.
Participants and alumni wanted to see the Sully Shuffle come back. Dana Annel, Sullivan’s daughter, wanted the local race to return and took over the leadership. She is an Oak Lawn Community High School graduate and currently a teacher at Kolb Elementary School in Oak Lawn.
Doreen Piro, an Oak Lawn Community High School physical education teacher, is in charge of the volunteers. Meyers said that she has been in charge of the volunteers at all eight Sully Shuffles. Students from her PE leaders class volunteer to help on the day of the event. Photography students volunteer to take photos, students from the choir sing the national anthem, and members of the boys cross country team help with the timing clock, Meyers said.
“I think Dana did a great job taking over this year,” Myers said. “Our numbers were down a little from previous years, which is still impressive considering we took a year off. We hope to increase those numbers next year. Oak Lawn Community High School, the Village of Oak Lawn, and the Oak Lawn police and fire (departments) are very supportive of this event. We are lucky to live in a community that supports its community members and alumni.”
The winner of this year’s Sully Shuffle was Thomas Zero, an Oak Lawn Community High School graduate. He finished in 20:20, a 6:33 pace. Maureen Bartosik, a 1991 Oak Lawn High School graduate, finished first among the female runners with a time of 23:43 for a 7:38 pace.
The winners were honored with medals, but all participants received honors after the race. A post-party is always held at the Homestead Barr in Oak Lawn. While the number of runners may have been down, Meyers said they had more sponsors than at any time in the past. She said it will take about a week to figure out the final totals. She added that the Sully Shuffle has raised a total of $163,000 for Parkinson’s disease research.
While organizing the event is often a daunting task, Meyers, who has previously served as the head varsity girls basketball coach and is now the technology coach at Oak Lawn High, said the reason for all the hard work is because of Sullivan.
“We can all learn from his eternal optimism and the strength he has showed battling Parkinson’s,” Meyers said. “I think the event is also a reflection on his life. As a teacher and a coach, he had a positive impact on so many people. Those people come back to help plan the event and participate in the event.
“It’s wonderful to see how excited some runners are when they earn a medal and stand on the platform with Sully.”