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Race Helps Irving School Reach Green Goal

Participants dash from Madison to Chicago in a 12-person relay, raising thousands for the school.

A dozen Oak Park parents with mixed experience ran a combined 197-mile race from Madison, Wis. to Chicago, raising close to $13,000 for last weekend.

Jassen Strokosch, a parent and former Irving PTO president, helped organize the race, called the Chicago Ragnar relay. He ran part of his race at 1 a.m. through pouring rain and cold.

“It was challenging, but everyone had to do it, and it was fun,” he said while cleaning his van off after the race. Two vans carried six runners each for about 30 hours.

The money raised will go towards placing solar panels on the roof at the school, as well putting up equipment to measure wind, possibly leading to electricity-generating wind turbines. It’s part of an overall to replace the existing cement playground with a greener alternative of grass and trees.

The donors supporting the relay team ranged from local businesses to an Irving student who gave his allowance money.

Since the effort reached above initial goals, some of the additional funds could go towards a shed outside the new garden beds behind the school, which were added last year.

“Many of us didn’t know each other beforehand,” Strokosch said of the team.

While some participants from Oak Park had some race practice — running in college, for example — others had never run in a race before.

But that didn't the stop the team, the "Soaring Schoolyard Eagles" from finishing. They completed the race in 28:41:42, ranking fifth in their 8-team division.

The top team overall, the Berkeley Running Division, finished in 19:50:58. Overall, 362 teams competed this year. 

The Irving Schoolyard Project received a boost earlier in April when village residents passed a referendum for increased tax money to support Oak Park Elementary District 97.

While the money was not directly tied to the Irving project, the school board has said it will have a more favorable position to spend money on capital projects like the Irving overhaul sooner.

With the passing of the referendum, all District 97 schools will be in line for a combined $2.5 million in capital projects, an average of $250,000 per school.

The school board is currently reviewing its needs assessment for the district. Irving Schoolyard project organizers will present their cost analysis plans to the board on June 28, hoping to leave with an approved dollar amount that they apply towards a matching grant.

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