Running to Give Back

Alicia Krieger, Communications

November 20, 2018

Runners are passionate about their sport. For Amy Cherko, a scientist based in Olsson’s Omaha office, her passion for running has become a way to give back to the Omaha community.

In 2012, Amy and a friend created the Feast and Feathers race—a run that takes place on Thanksgiving Day, with all proceeds going to a local food back.

“We had the idea to do a turkey trot on trails because we liked trail running better than road running,” Amy said. “We didn’t want to deal with the money side of things, so I suggested we just donate it all. 2012 was also the inception of the Greater Omaha Area Trail Runners group, frequently shortened to GOATz, so we were able to use their 501c3 status and accounts to make the race a reality.”

GOATz is a trail running group that is entirely made up of volunteers. They aim to support the Greater Omaha community in a variety of ways. Primarily, they organize trail races and donate proceeds to charity (Feast and Feathers, Tails and Trails, Skyline Ranch Runs, and Hitchcock Experience all have charity benefactors). In the past, they have also organized free events for parents and children to get out onto trails together, organized trail cleanup days where they mow/trim existing trails and collect trash, and have donated excess event clothing to high school cross country teams, etc. Since 2012, the proceeds from the GOATz races have totaled more than $250,000 for other local nonprofits, with more than $134,000 donated to Food Bank from the Heartland from their Feast and Feathers events and more than $20,000 to the Hitchcock Nature Center.

Last year, the president of GOATz stepped down and the board voted Amy in as the new president. Amy’s friend and co-founder of the Feast and Feathers race moved away, so Amy’s sister, Vanessa, stepped in as the race director.

“It’s been fun to grow this race as a tradition, not only for ourselves and the food bank, but also for the participants,” Amy said. “We have families that have run it for years and also have those who come out and run it as their first half marathon. We’ve also had a lot of Olsson involvement, both runners and volunteers.”

According to Amy, the 2018 race had a very special finisher. A woman who had suffered a stroke in December 2017 and set running the Feast and Feathers race as a goal.

“She couldn’t even walk and setting our race as her goal helped to keep her motivated,” she said. “It was a very emotional moment, for her and us, when she finished.”

To keep the momentum of GOATz going, Amy is leading the process of growing the board and refining its mission. Currently they are laying a lot of groundwork – rewriting their mission and values statements, pulling together an annual report, and creating a strategic plan to help guide the organization.

“Everyone is there because they want to be, they want to make the GOATz better, and they are passionate about what we do. It’s a unique cohort and everyone has their origin story of how they found running and what running has brought to them,” Amy said. “I can comfortably say that we are all grateful for the sport of running, the community it has brought us, and we enjoy hosting events to bring people together to achieve a goal that they may have thought was previously beyond their limit or an event that is new to them.”

If you want to learn more about GOATz or volunteer with the group, visit their website at www.goatz.org.

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