By Emily Williams
Next month, the Vestavia Hills Rotary Club will introduce a new fundraiser, Hike the Hill, designed to accommodate the pandemic-induced “new normal.”
Participants will have from Sept. 1 until Sept. 20 to “hike the hill,” an approximately 1.5-mile course that begins at Little Shades Creek Bridge on Morgan Road and continues past Vestavia Hills High School, ending at the corner of Lime Rock Road and Panorama Drive.
According to Vestavia Hills Rotary Club member and Hike the Hill Chairperson Kent Howard, the race has been expanded over the course of 20 days to allow all participants to complete the course at their own pace, while also providing ample space to socially distance. Longtime Vestavia Hills High School football coach Buddy Anderson will be the official race starter.
Typically, the club spends much of the spring and summer preparing for their largest fundraiser of the year, Iron City Chef. That is an Iron Chef-style event hosted in partnership with Jefferson State Community College’s Culinary and Hospitality Institute.
“Last year we held our 11th annual ICC fundraiser and we had more people show up than ever before,” said member Kent Howard. Upwards of 400 people gathered at Holy Trinity Cross Greek Orthodox Church for that event. It was a plan they expected to revisit for the 2020 event, but then COVID-19 struck.
For years, when Howard drove up the very hill where the hike will take place, he pictured a potential fundraiser. He and other members reviewed the idea about seven or eight years ago, but there were a lot of great races in the area, and the idea was stored away for another day.
“The time seemed right to create a fun community activity for families and students that recognizes social distance and full of teaching moments related to overcoming obstacles. Hike the Hill is the event that allows us to expand our support beyond Rotary legacy program to include other Vestavia school programs, like the (Parent Teacher Organization),” Howard said.
Beginning in April, the 2019 Iron City Chef planning committee met virtually weekly to plan what has become Hike the Hill. Members of that committee are Gary Jordan, Ted Strong, Georgia Medori, Joe Strickland, Cristen Eustice, Steve Odle, Maury Wald, Mona Fisher George Gammill and Joe Perez.
Howard noted that it was a community effort, with committee members’ families pitching in to help as well. Jordan’s wife, Ann, came up with the event name and Wald’s daughter, Eve Wald Byrne, a graphic designer and graduate of Vestavia Hills High School, helped create the logo design.
Funds raised will continue to benefit the club’s existing initiatives, both international and local, but the spotlight will be focused on celebrating and expanding VHCS PTO programs.
It became increasingly clear that the PTO, like all of us, would be looking at a new normal due to the pandemic, Howard noted, with the possibility of some of their regular events and fundraisers being negatively impacted. When the Hike the Hill committee reached out to fellow Rotarian and Vestavia Hills School Superintendent Todd Freeman and VHCS PTO President Kristin Tunnell, they received nothing but positive feedback.
“The community is already jumping on board, signing up, and our business sponsors are stepping up, as in years past,” Howard said. “We believe Hike the Hill will become an annual event to celebrate our schools, students and community.”
Those interested in participating in the hike can register at vestaviarotary.org and join their preferred school’s PTO Team. A portion of the registration fee will support the selected PTO’s efforts to support student education that includes classroom grants.