From start to finish, Baker & Daniels made an impression on the second annual Fort-4-Fitness half marathon run on September 26 in Fort Wayne.
The firm was represented at the beginning by several participants in the 13.1-mile event and at the end by lawyers Reed Silliman and Mac Parker holding the finish-line tape. Baker & Daniels also was the corporate sponsor of the half marathon, the longest event in the festival that promotes healthy living and fitness in Northeast Indiana.
But perhaps Baker & Daniels' greatest impact came from employees and family members who offered 2,279 runners and walkers lots of smiles, cheers of encouragement and plenty of water at the four-mile mark. Beginning at 6 a.m., 16 volunteers representing the firm's Fort Wayne office filled 3,600 cups of water — six tables with 600 cups stacked in 25 rows, eight deep and three layers.
"You get everything ready, and then you wait," said Judy May, a Baker & Daniels legal secretary who organized the firm's team effort. "When the first few runners come through the station, you think, 'No problem. This will be easy.' Then, a few minutes later, you look up and there is literally a sea of people running toward you reaching for water. It was challenging and fun to get water to everyone without slowing them down."
From the first runner — who won in 1 hour, 11 minutes and 46 seconds — to the final walker — who finished in 4 hours, 24 minutes and 30 seconds — Baker & Daniels volunteers offered water to everyone.
"It was exciting to see all the runners and walkers — and a great feeling knowing that you helped with something so cool," said Melanie Jones, another Baker & Daniels legal secretary and event volunteer. "The participants were so appreciative of what we were doing. Pretty much every one of them said thanks."
"You knew if they made eye contact with you that they were planning to take your cup," Jones added, saying the key for a quick exchange was holding cups by the rim or in the palm of your hand. "We also had a loud cheering group, and the participants were very appreciative of our support."
Cheerleaders from Concordia High School bolstered constant cheering at the water station. "Their efforts were well-received by the participants, and their enthusiasm was contagious," May said.
Baker & Daniels' volunteers were also the recipients of some much appreciated cleanup support. "We had a great group of National Guard people at our station, and they helped a ton!" Jones explained. "They kept all the cups swept up, and we had literally no cups to pick up after the race."
It marked the second year that Baker & Daniels' lawyers, staff and families manned a volunteer water station during the half marathon. This year's event started in front of the historic Baker Street Station in downtown Fort Wayne; wound through historic neighborhoods, in Foster Park and past landmark churches; and finished at Parkview Field, the city's new downtown baseball stadium. The two-day festival also featured a four-mile run/walk, a kid's "marathon," and health care and fitness exhibitors.
Will Jones return next year to enjoy the excitement of handing out water again? "I would, but I want to walk the 13 miles instead of doing the water station," she predicted.