Hitting The Road For Kaua‘i’s Students

Richard Olsen and Tom Lodico. Coco Zickos photo

Rotarians Richard Olsen and Tom Lodico are hoping the ninth annual Old Koloa Sugar Mill Run will raise

Participating in the ninth annual Old Koloa Sugar Mill Run Nov. 12 is not only motivation to stay healthy, it’s an opportunity to give back to the community.

Organized by the Rotary Club of Kaua’i, the event’s proceeds will fund local scholarships for programs such as nursing and electronics technology at Kaua’i Community College.

“The Rotary is all about supporting the local community and educational activities,” says club member and event co-chairman Richard Olsen.

Last year, five $1,000 scholarships were awarded. This year, race director and club treasurer Thomas Lodico would be pleased with earning between $5,000 and $6,000. “But I think our ultimate goal is $10,000,” he says.

To give away 10 scholarships at $1,000 per student would “make us very happy,” adds Lodico.

Last year's race resulted in five $1,000 scholarships, and the Rotary Club of Kaua'i is hoping for an even better turnout this year. Photos courtesy Richard Olsen

Some 400 people participated in the 2010 race, and this year Lodico is hoping to see 500 runners. The number of attendees has already nearly doubled since the Rotary took over the organizational aspects of the run four years ago.

“You can see the increase is considerable,” says Lodico.

Ample outreach, including publicity in national publications such as Runner’s World, is getting the word out to Mainland runners and joggers.

“More and more visitors are looking for this race when they come over on vacation,” says Lodico.

In prior years, approximately 95 percent of entrants were local. “But now that figure is changing,” notes Olsen.

Increasing the number of interested participants has required many voluntary hours of work by Olsen and Lodico. Setting up the website, sending letters to potential sponsors and notifying runners with postcards are among the many tasks Olsen has accomplished this year.

He’ll also be at the race with other Rotarians to help register competitors and make sure everything runs smoothly.

Old Koloa Sugar Mill Run logo

Runners have fun and look forward to it every year, so Olsen says every minute of his commitment is worthwhile.

“I’m an Eagle Scout and I’ve always been involved in community activities, and Rotary is like Boy Scouts for adults,” Olsen jokes.

And it is the smiles on students’ faces when they receive their scholarships that make Lodico feel his efforts are beneficial.

Raising money for those in need is something the club is famous for, and that’s exactly why it was tapped to take over the Old Koloa Sugar Mill Run. The event’s previous organizer “knew the Rotary would send money to the community,” says Lodico.

Proceeds from the $25 pre-registration fee don’t amount to much, as Tshirts or tank tops by Nite Owl T-shirts in Port Allen and breakfast are part of a participants’ package, so sponsors such as Chevron Hawai’i and the Bone & Joint Center at Kaua’i Medical Clinic are what really make the scholarships possible. Additional local sponsors help by donating prizes such as free dinners and lodging, which are awarded to the top three male and female runners of each race category.

Regardless of whether they win, participants can look forward to traversing a beautiful South Shore course. Originally, runners made their trek through the sugar cane fields of Koloa.

“But there were some problems. The road was very, very bumpy with big potholes and it was very rough,” says Olsen. “Generally runners like to run on smooth surfaces, on pavement, therefore we restructured those routes.” Runners will still pass the old mill, but the path has become much safer.

Another thing that’s changed since the race’s inception is the separation of those who wish to competitively run and those who would rather walk or stroll, creating more options for everyone.

The 10-mile race, which kicks off at Anne Knudsen Park, begins at 7 a.m., the 10K race at 7:15 and the 5K run and walk at 7:30. Breakfast will be served around 9, when race winners will be announced.

Participants can pre-register for $25 at active.com (search “sugar mill run”) before Nov 1. Late registration costs $30 at active.com from Nov. 1 to 11, and same-day registration at the pavilion is $40 until 6:30 a.m.

For more information, visit oldkoloasugarmillrun.org, email oldkoloasugarmillrun@gmail.com or call Lodico at 635-5404.