As music blared over loudspeakers, echoing off the concrete of California Great America, two people dressed as the theme park’s mascots, Peanuts gang members Lucy Van Pelt and Snoopy, began to dance.
People cheered and got in on the fun.
But the roller coasters were still. The snack shop vendors were nowhere in sight. The usual bustle of the theme park was quiet, and those in attendance were not here to partake of the park’s high-adrenaline entertainment — at least not yet. The dozens in attendance lined up, their paper numbers secured to their clothes, for a different kind of event: the annual Mission City Fun Run.
This year the Santa Clara Rotary Club put on the 5K, which is a fundraising effort to help fund the club’s charitable efforts. Registration included free admission to the park for the day.
Miles Barber, the organizer for the run, said sponsors like Kaiser Permanente, the San Francisco 49ers, Related, Blach Construction, Milnark’s Law Firm and Bay Area Builders helped raise more than $35,000.
Barber said the event, which Rotary just took over this year from the Mission City Community Fund, will go toward the $100,000 it injects back into the community each year with its programs such as its Steps for Success, Christmas for Kids and scholarships programs it offers to youth from underserved families. It also helps fund Rotary’s Enterprise Leadership Conference for high school juniors.
In addition to free admission to the park, runners received goody bags and a T-shirt with registration.
The weather was perfect and the hundreds that participated included families served by the Bill Wilson Center. In addition, extra Fun Run T-shirts were donated to St.Vincent DePaul for 80 homeless families who lost their Sunnyvale apartment building to a fire a few weeks ago.
Gabor Bartha, of Los Altos, was one of those who turned out to run. He said he did the run two years ago.
“It is different,” he said. “Having the run in a snake around the park is unique, even if it isn’t really about the running part.”
Free admission to the park is a big bonus, he said, especially since there are no lines so early in the morning. However, he said he wished the run was advertised better.
Tom Flynn, of Santa Clara, brought his five sons, one of whom he pushed in a stroller as he crossed the finish line and gathered his breath near a table full of bottled water.
“The park is a big draw, but they like the run too,” he said. “It is fun to see the rides when no one is around. We had fun.”
Rotary put on the run four years ago. However, Barber said he is unsure how long Rotary will continue to organize the run, but it has taken it on “into perpetuity” as of this year.
Although Rotary certainly wants the runners to have a good time, the event is more about drawing attention to Rotary’s programs and raising money for them, he said. Santa Clara Rotary’s membership has grown by 30 percent — to 102 members — in the past two years, a trend Barber said he would like to see continue.
“We think we are the greatest Rotary club in the world,” he said. “We say that with some degree of humility and pride. I think that has to do with having fun and our enthusiasm … the members want to be involved in our community. They are attracted to the projects we produce to serve our residents.”