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Iowa City Run for the Schools Not Dampened by Rain

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IOWA CITY, Iowa - Most of 9-year-old Zachary Shields' friends probably slept in on the cold and wet Sunday morning that greeted participants in MidWestOne Bank's 14th annual Run for the Schools, but Shields, who was born with spina bifida, was out running his first race.

And though the Van Allen Elementary School student had little to say about his accomplishment Sunday, his mother, Alisa Shields, was beaming with happiness.

"He was born with spina bifida, and they told us there was a chance he would never walk but today he ran," Shields said while standing at the intersection of College and Gilbert Streets in Iowa City. "We didn't come across first, but I bet he was the first kid with spina bifida to come across today."

The run, now in it's 37th year, benefits the Iowa City Community School District and Regina Catholic School District. The fundraiser was originally scheduled to include a half-mile, one mile, 5K, 10K and half marathon run, but the 10K and half marathon were cancelled due to weather Sunday morning.

Last year, the event raised over $30,000, and organizers said at 1,000 people were present about a half an hour before the race was scheduled to start Sunday. As of Saturday, roughly 2,200 were registered to participate this year.

And, though organizers were disappointed in the weather, they said community safety was most important in their decision.

"It's a community event, that's why we're being cautious," said Joe Dwyer, who co-directed the run with his wife, Jean this year. "Because it's a family friendly event, there are a lot of kids here and we want to make sure it's as safe as possible for the volunteers and the participants."

Dwyer said the event has raised over $550,000 for the school districts over the years. That money goes towards the districts Excellence Fund which supports its grant program.

With the help of money from Run for the Schools, Victoria Gilpin, executive director at the Iowa City Community School District Foundation, said the district has been able to provide grant funding for special programs.

Those programs include one that brings a professional symphony to perform before third and fourth graders and another that brings an author and illustrator to fifth and sixth graders. She said that money has also brought iPADs to the district.

Gilpin said the event is important to helping fund the district's grant program, which was over $77,500 this year, adding the race wouldn't be possible without so many volunteers.

"It's really heart warming because it's all volunteer," Gilpin said. "No one is paid to put on this race."

Alisa Shields, whose 6-year-old son is also in the district, said the number of participants in this year's event, even with the rain, is a testament to how much Iowa City cares about education.

"It helps provide things for the school that tax money can't," Shields said. "And it's a great fundraiser so you don't have all those little ones where they're selling stuff door to door all the time. Plus, it brings the whole school district together so it's not just one school and I think the great turn out, even in bad weather, just shows the importance of education to this town and this area so it just emphasizes that we put a lot of value in our education and try to do what we can to support the schools."

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