Casco Bay Young Life, which serves kids in Portland, Falmouth and Freeport, is gearing up to host its first-ever “Casco Bay 21K,” a fundraiser road race scheduled for Saturday, May 14.
A 21K may seem like an odd distance, but it’s standard runner’s parlance and equates to 13.1 miles – or half a marathon. It’s not a common length for a road race, but it’s a popular stepping stone for athletes looking to ramp up from the more common 5K and 10K races to the daunting full-marathon.
“We’d love to get 150 runners,” says Jordan Droge, area director for Young Life Casco Bay. “We currently have about 75 signed up.”
Droge stresses that “anyone can sign up,” and adds that, “We’ll even have some kids [from] the Freeport Cross Country team.” The Falcons will make impressive running mates for interested parties: They were State Champions last fall.
The Casco Bay 21K costs $65 for an individual to enter, and $130 for a relay team of four people. Relayers can divvy up the distance any which way they please. Sponsors are available for runners who can’t afford the fees. The price tag buys a T-shirt, goodie bag and race timing services – and of course some fun at the finish line.
“We’ll have a finish line experience,” says Droge, “with a live reggae band, food and even free massages.”
The route will take participants from Payson Park in Portland up along Route 88, through Falmouth, Cumberland and Yarmouth. It finishes at the famed Big Indian, on Route 1 in Freeport.
Young Life is a “non-denominational Christian outreach to middle school and high school kids,” says Droge. So, while the organization has religion at its heart, it’s not overly demanding about who-should-belong-to-which-sect-and-why.
Droge clarifies: “Young Life provides three things: positive, adult mentoring relationships; safe/inclusive events and camping experiences; and a basic presentation of the Christian faith.”
Droge emphasizes that discussions of religion are kept brief, and presented in a “safe, simple and non-threatening manner.” He adds that kids are invited to speak in more depth with mentors about life, faith and their personal struggles.
At its weekly meetings, Casco Bay Young Life engages kids in all sorts of activities, from singing songs to playing games to acting out skits. But the organization also hosts camps, “where there are high-adventure, all-camp activities, as well as cabin activities like ropes courses, parasailing, giant swings, obstacles courses, shaving cream wars and much, much more,” says Droge. “It’s a week where kids can just be kids without worrying about the pressures of school, home and whatever struggles are at home.”
“Our goal for Casco Bay Young Life,” added Droge, “is that every kid from Portland to Freeport have the opportunity to be connected to a Young Life leader – a positive adult mentor – so that they won’t go through middle/high school feeling alone or invisible, but that they feel known and listened to, and that they would have a genuine friend to go to process this significant time in their life.”
“I would estimate that across Maine there are about 300-400 kids who have been impacted through Young Life and its various chapters,” says Droge. “And this summer there will be 150-175 kids/leaders who will attend a weeklong Young Life camp.”
Importantly, the organization is growing, and they’re eager to grow more. They’re even looking for more leaders, Droge said.
Young Life Casco Bay formed in 2014; there are similar programs in Gorham/Windham, Sanford, Bath and Kennebunk.
Run in a Race, LLC – owned and operated by Freeport cross country and indoor track head coach Brian Berkemeyer – is providing registration and timing services for the Casco Bay 21K.
Interested parties can sign up at http://runinarace.com/CascoBay/index.html. Droge himself can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Young Life Casco Bay is online at www.younglifecb.com. The organization is also searchable on Facebook.
Basic details for the Casco Bay 21K are included here.