By Emily Williams-Robertshaw
The Vestavia Hills Rotary Club is bringing back its month-long Hike the Hill fundraiser this year to bring the community together to support Vestavia Hills City Schools.
While the event is only in its second year, it has grown immensely.
The 2021 event will take place from Sept. 1 through Sept. 30, expanding to include five routes through the Vestavia Hills community. Taking into account COVID-19 pandemic concerns, the fundraiser allows participants to complete community hikes on their own time while social distancing.
For more than three decades, the Vestavia Hills Rotary Club has supported the school system. It now is offering three scholarships to Vestavia Hills High School seniors each year, as well as supporting programs such as the math, debate and robotics teams.
“The reason this event works is because the community gets behind us, that includes our business sponsors and individuals,” said Hike the Hill chair and Rotary member Kent Howard. “Without their support and providing those funds, none of this would be possible.”
Support comes from city government, as well.
At a city council meeting Aug. 9, Howard and fellow Rotarians were in attendance as Mayor Ashley Curry introduced a proclamation naming September “Hike the Hill Month.”
Howard said last year’s event established a good foundation for growth, creating distinct branding as well as introducing the event to the community.
This year, the local business community has flooded the event with support.
“We targeted a few restaurants in different Vestavia Hills neighborhoods to reach out to: Mudtown Eat & Drink, The Ridge, Moe’s BBQ, Martin’s BBQ and Dunkin Donuts,” Howard said. “Each will be giving 10% discounts during the month of September if you show up wearing your Hike the Hill T-shirt.”
In addition, each person who registers will be given a $5 Taco Mama discount card.
“The idea to expand came about after last year’s event,” Howard said. “Liberty Park reached out and asked if they could have a course.”
It sparked an idea to establish accessible routes throughout the city.
While people can complete their hike anywhere they wish, there are five designated Hike the Hill routes this year, including the Liberty Park route and the original hike from Little Shades Creek up Morgan Road past Vestavia Hills High School. There will be a hike by Cahaba Heights Elementary School; one near Vestavia Hills Elementary West, from Wald Park to the Vestavia City Center; and another near Vestavia Elementary East.
“Just a couple of weeks ago, we had some folks from the Vestavia Hills Elementary East community asking to have a hike from the school to Shades Crest,” Howard said.
According to Howard, Rotarians were at Vestavia Hills City Schools on Meet the Teacher day passing out fliers for the event. In addition, the system’s Parent Teacher Organization has been spreading the word.
“We are fortunate in this community that we have well-funded schools, but any time we can help raise some additional dollars, it just helps provide more programming for the students,” he said.
When folks register to participate in Hike the Hill, they have the opportunity to choose a PTO team to support. A portion of the registration funds will directly benefit the chosen PTO’s efforts to provide grants to support student education.
Starts Sept. 1
On Sept. 1, an opening ceremony will take place about 11 a.m. at the original route. This year’s official Hike the Hill starter will feature VHHS band director Jerell Horton cutting the ribbon to officially start the hike. In addition, Vestavia Hills Rotary Club Teachers of the Year will serve as honorary hikers.
Rotary club members will spend each Sunday in September at a new route. The first 20 hikers to show up in their T-shirts will receive coupons for a free personal pan pizza from Donato’s Pizza. There also will be a number of prize drawings throughout the month.
“We need to encourage people to get out, be active and take some of these challenges on,” Howard said.
The club will host a closing celebration on the final Sunday of the month from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the original Hike the Hill route.
Howard said Rotarians plan to give out a number of prizes, including two annual passes to Wald Park’s facilities.
Recruiting Helping Hands
Howard hopes the event remains a fixture on the Vestavia Hills civic calendar and helps the Vestavia Hills Rotary Club maintain a relationship with community members.
The club has been a fixture in the community for nearly five decades, and plans to celebrate its 50th anniversary in November.
“We want to expose more and more people to Rotary and the work that we do not only here but around the world,” he said.
Hike the Hill is just the tip of the iceberg for the service organization. Vestavia Hills Rotary participates in many community-based projects throughout the year.
Each December, members spend Saturdays participating in the Salvation Army’s Christmas bell ringing.
In 2020 and 2021, the club established “workday Saturdays” at Veterans’ Memorial Park to show appreciation for the country’s veterans. Members participate in cleaning and maintaining the park.
Vestavia Hills Rotary also lends helping hands to the Central Alabama Community Food Bank, packaging food stores for distribution to those who are food insecure. Through donations and other clubwide work efforts, the Vestavia Hills Rotary Club serves Alabamians who are vulnerable to hunger.
“We’re always looking for new members, people who are interested in the community and who are interested in making a difference in that community,” Howard said. “There are always volunteer opportunities. There are more opportunities out there than we have people, so hopefully we will pick up some new members to help continue to live out our motto of ‘Service above Self.’”
The club meets at Southminster Presbyterian Church every first and third Tuesday of the month at 11:45 a.m.
For more information, visit vestaviarotary.org.