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The finale for the Rotary Father's Day Spirit Run

Uploaded: Jun 7, 2018
If the Pleasanton Rotary Club’s Spirit Run is part of your Father’s Day experience, put June 17 on your calendar. It will be the FINAL (as the posters emphasize it in red) run on Father’s Day.

The club has decided unanimously to end the 25-year tradition that has produced hundreds of thousands of dollars for need-based scholarships awarded to graduating Pleasanton seniors. It established a committee to evaluate what type of fundraiser to hold in 2019 because members love giving away money to support community causes and higher education.

That group noted that there are many galas and golf tournaments, but there was still a niche for a well-operated and well-timed family-focused outdoor activity.

The good news, according to event co-chair Todd Utikal, is the club will re-establish its Spirit Run around Halloween. The club ran two October runs a few years back before suspending it.

So, the Halloween Spirit Run will take place the last Sunday in October 2019, presumably utilizing a similar route that starts under the Pleasanton Arch downtown. The key for the club is continuing the long-standing arrangements with many sponsors who donate the funds that go into the community and scholarships. The registration fee for runners covers the cost of the run.

Sensiba San Filippo, Certified Public Accountants and Business Advisors, has been the presenting sponsor for many years. The firm is joined by many other companies, many owned by Rotary members or with members as employees.

When it comes to distributing funds, the historic commitment to scholarships is the top priority while wheelchairs for disabled people in partnership with the Wheelchair Foundation is No. 2. For instance, in the last three years, the club foundation has given way $35k, $30k and $30k in scholarships. When I sat down to talk with Todd last week, a Rotary team was in Peru distributing wheelchairs.

The club awarded 11 scholarships this year and have given out 214 over the last 12 years.

Larry Annis, son of a club founder, the late Warren Annis, wrote, “..last night at the Village High School graduation where I presented the Warren M. Annis Service above Self scholarship on behalf of the Rotary Club of Pleasanton I was so proud to say that the Rotary Club of Pleasanton has donated over $1,000,000 to Pleasanton student scholarships since the club was started in 1965.”

The remaining money, about $20,000 last year, was given away through a grants process to organizations such as Hope Hospice, the Tri-Valley Haven, Open Heart Kitchen and Pleasanton Partnerships in Education.

A key driver in the date change was the school board’s decision to shift the calendar so students start earlier in August and finish the first week of June. Participation has dropped sharply the last two years despite a concerted marketing effort last year.

The October date eliminates that issue and holds the promise of better participation from the schools and families plus the fun of people running in costumes.

The run dates to Pleasanton’s Centennial Celebration in 1994 that was chaired by Brad Hirst, who also is a long-time Rotarian. Joanie Fields served on the steering committee and her husband, avid runner Jim Fields, suggested a run through the community’s creeks and arroyos. Thus was born, ACT, the Arroyos, Creeks and Trails run. It went so well that Joannie Fields organized ACT II before handing it off to the Rotarians who shifted it to Father’s Day.

For Rotarians, 2019 will mean the first opportunity for the dads to sleep in on Father’s Day in a quarter of a century. It always has been an all-hands on deck event with members expected to report at 6 a.m. As a long-time former Rotarian, it was painful to be somewhere, dressed and ready to go, barely after the sun came up.

For some members, such as retired Realtor Chris Miller, better known for his leadership in the Pleasanton Military Families, he has worked the same intersection on the course for years.

Kathy Alameda, a CPA, wrote, “My favorite thing about the Spirit Run over the last 22 years that I have been working it has been, the Father and Son who would run together for years as part of their Father’s Day Celebration, then it became the Grandfather, the Father and the new Son. It was fun to see them each year and watch them celebrate their day.”

John Sensiba, managing partner of the presenting sponsors, directed the race for a couple of years and will be missing this year’s finale to attend his daughter’s graduation from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He wrote she was just out of diapers when his family started volunteering. Over the years, his son has moved from “set-up grunt” to the medical tent as an EMT. His other daughter, who started helping as a 9-year-old, now is an Alameda County Sheriff’s deputy.

To register or see a list of sponsors, please see

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