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A tradition gets a slight change to honor, help July 4 shooting victims

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. — A traditional race in a Lake County city is getting a change in 2023 to help those affected by what happened on July 4, 2022.

This was all the idea of one resident and a hobby she rediscovered after being close to the mass shooting that occurred in Highland Park nearly 11 months ago in which seven people died and 48 were injured.

“It sort of cleared my mind and connected my mind and body, which was really disjointed following the parade,” said Ali Burnham, who took up running after ten years and aided in forming a run club in the city as a way to cope with the tragedy.

They were the catalyst in changing the name of the North Shore Classic, a half-marathon and 5K race, to the Highland Park Strong Race that’s set to be run this Sunday at 7:30 a.m. It will be the 45th time that it’s been staged and will also feature a new one-mile race as well as a way to get more people involved in the event.

Burnham along with the Highland Park Strong Running Club, which was formed last July, worked with Buffalo Grove-based Ventures Endurance to change the name of the event.

“I started trying to figure out for myself how can I feel better but also give back to the community,” said Burnham, who began the effort to rename the race in July 2022. “My way of doing that was through running.”

Primarily it will benefit the Highland Park Community Foundation’s shooting fund that was established the day after the tragedy downtown. Ventures Endurance will donate a portion of the funds from the race to that fund while runners are also raising money ahead of taking to the course.

Others are also welcome to donate to the fund, even if they’re not running. People can still do so or register to take part in the race or volunteer for the event.

“It really does mean so much when people care, when people put effort into saying ‘We are not going to let this event ruin our community. In fact, we’re going to become stronger than ever,’” said Highland Park Community Foundation executive director Terri Olian. “Because neighbors care about neighbors, friends care about friends, and neighbors and strangers. People from around the world, from around the country, showed that they care.

“So to have the race rebranded, renamed that way, it’s a real showing of support for our community.”

For Burnham, there is another big thing that she wants out of this event that got its new name in 2023.

“It was really important to have this event be something fun where we could come together as a community,” said Burnham. “Something that feels good physically but also emotionally, where we could come together.”

Larry Hawley has more from both Burnham and Olian on the “Highland Park Strong” race from WGN News Now in the story above.

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