The race will be run in several heats, including five-year age groups, a family division and an elite division. Awards will be given in every category.
Proceeds of the race will go to the Two Hundred Club of the Coastal Empire, which provides immediate financial assistance to the surviving spouse and children of law enforcement officers, firefighters and paramedics who die in the line of duty. The race is being hopefully called “the first annual.”
“It’s hoped this is something we can build on and do every year,” says Two Hundred Club Chairman Charles H. Morris (who also owns Connect Savannah). “It ought to be a fun outing. There will probably be eight to 10 heats for children and families, and a serious one-mile run.”
The race takes place during Memorial Day weekend, Morris says. “We hope it will be a really fun, family-friendly outing,” he says.
The Two Hundred Club is the only beneficiary of the run. Sadly, the deaths of several officers in the line of duty have occurred in the Coastal Empire over the past six months. “We have depleted our funds by about $100,000,” Morris says. “We hope to replenish them.”
The concept behind the “hundred clubs” began in 1952 in Detroit when a young police officer was fatally shot. William M. Packer, at the time the largest Pontiac dealer in the U.S, was a friend of the police commissioner. Packer wrote to 100 of his friends, encouraging them to donate to a fund for the fallen officer.
He and the commissioner met with the slain officer’s pregnant wife, and used the money raised to pay off the mortgage and all the bills and set up an education account for the baby. They even deposited $7,000 in the widow’s checking account. The One Hundred Club of Detroit was incorporated shortly after, and other cities and counties began to form clubs of their own.
The idea came to the Coastal Empire in 2000 when Brooks Stillwell, Harry Haslam and Tak Argentinis met to discuss the possibility of forming a similar organization. The Two Hundred Club board has members in business, law enforcement, judicial, professional, religious and academic communities.
“All of us are volunteers,” Morris says.“We have 300 members now in 18 counties from the Florida line to Jasper County in South Carolina. We’ve taken care of survivors in just about all of those counties.”
The average age of officers who are killed in the line of duty is 35, Morris says. “They have a mortgage, bills and kids,” he says.
“We go in and negotiate and help them pay their bills,” Morris says. “We help get their kids an education.”
What is perhaps most unique about the Two Hundred Club’s mission is that the financial help is immediate. “A lot of municipalities and counties in the area don’t have immediate funds they can make available to the surviving family,” Morris says.
“A lot of the survivors can’t afford to bury their loved one,” he says. “It’s tough.”
Most of the club’s money comes from its members, who pay a $250 per year membership fee.
“Some want to pay more,” Morris says. “I’m really proud of this organization and proud to be a part of it.”
The Savannah Mile will be Saturday, May 26. Heats will begin at 8 a.m. Cost to participate is $12 in advance or $18 the day of the race. Race badges available at all Enmark service stations. For information, call 507-2320.