Dodds Park hosts scholarship fundraiser run

Photo by Tom Warner | Runners take part in Champaign-Urbana Special Recreation’s Cupcake 5K Run, Roll and Recreational Walk at Dodds Park on Nov. 5.

Photo by Tom Warner | Runners take part in Champaign-Urbana Special Recreation’s Cupcake 5K Run, Roll and Recreational Walk at Dodds Park on Nov. 5.

Emma Gray


On Sunday, Nov. 5, the Champaign-Urbana Special Recreation’s Cupcake 5K Run, Roll and Recreational Walk, an annual fundraiser for the CUSR scholarship fund, took place at Dodd’s Park.

The run started at 9 a.m. with participants gathering by the Eddie Albert Gardens on Parkland Way. The road that the run took place on was blocked off. Despite intermittent rain, the event did not stop, with the first participants reaching the finish line after about 20 minutes. Volunteers had cupcakes, bananas, granola bars, and water waiting at the finish line.

The event had a range of ages and abilities participating. The course of the race was designed to ensure that it could accommodate runners, walkers, and those using wheelchairs. Some participants also pushed small children in strollers for the run.

According to Caitlin Hitzeman, a CUSR Adult Program Coordinator and ADA Compliance Officer for Champaign and Urbana’s park districts, CUSR is a cooperative agreement between the two city park districts to provide year-round activities for individuals with disabilities six months in age and up.

This year, the Cupcake 5K raised approximately $6,570, about a $2,500 jump up from last year’s event. This increase is due to the fact that this year had over 75 more runners  than last year. According to Hitzeman, every year there have been more runners than the last.

The money raised from the run goes to the CUSR scholarship fund, which financially supports families who utilize services.

“We realize that many of our participants are in need of our services, but simply don’t have the financial stability to pay for them,” said Hitzeman in an email interview. “Our ultimate goal is to serve as many people in the C-U community as possible and [we] are willing to do anything we can do to make sure that happens.”

CUSR offers a variety of programs and services.

“Some of our services include an after-school program, summer day camps, in-house programs, day trips, overnight trips, and athletics, including Special Olympics sports, and another exclusive aspect of CUSR is our inclusion services,” Hitzeman said.

CUSR’s inclusion services are free and allow those with disabilities to get accommodations for park district programs that are not part of CUSR’s programming. These services can include things like consultations and training for staff members of the program, personal aides and special equipment.

CUSR has different programs aimed at different age groups. There are programs like “Jumpin’ @ Jupiter’s” or “Theatre 101” which are only for adults, programs like “Therapeutic Horseback Riding” which is for both adults and children, and programs like “Tiny Tots Playgroup” which is only for children. CUSR has reoccurring programs and special one date only programs.

“The Cupcake 5K began five years ago when Hannah Sheets, the then athletic coordinator of CUSR, got the idea.”

“Hannah is an avid runner herself and thought hosting a 5K would be a great opportunity to raise awareness for CUSR, as well as funds for our scholarship fund,” Hitzeman said. “Ultimately, we are an organization that revolves around recreation and it was important for us to keep that in mind when planning a fundraiser for CUSR. As for the cupcake part of it, the staff at the time wanted a fun, but different aspect of the race that was unlike any they’ve seen in the past. Plus, who doesn’t love a free cupcake?”

The Cupcake 5K is currently the largest fundraiser that CUSR does, but they hold smaller ones for their athletic programs as well.

“We do have a Boosters Club for our athletic programs and we hold various small fundraisers, such as selling concessions at sporting competitions to raise money for our Athletic programs,” Hitzeman said. “As a team, we are constantly thinking of new and innovative ways to raise not only funding for our participants, but also awareness of CUSR and what it is that we do and who we serve. One goal we have for the future is to develop a fundraiser that allows our participants to not only attend the event, but also help put it on.”

Parkland College has been the location of the run every year it has taken place.

“Part of our course runs through Parkland’s campus and has done so for the past five years,” Hitzeman said. “The school has been great to work with and are very supportive of CUSR and our efforts with this race. The school has also helped to promote the event, which is always a positive thing.”

For more information and a full list of programs that CUSR offers, volunteering with CUSR or job opportunities with CUSR, visit their website at