Woodsfield charity run celebrating 35th birthday

Charlie Kozlesky loves to run.

However, his passion for running is probably only superceeded by his passion to help children.

A retired educator, Kozlesky’s made a lot of contributions to the lives of youngsters, but his effort and determination to help Children’s Hospitals throughout the area probably far exceeds his educational work.

This Saturday, in Woodsfield, Kozlesky and some 15 others will take part in the 35th annual Woodsfield Run for Kids, which donates 100 percent of its financial intake to Children’s Hospitals in Columbus, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Dayton and Buffalo, N.Y.

“I am still happy that I can run, but I am more happy that the people of the Ohio Valley still support this race and cause,” Kozlesky said, from his house in Westerville, during a phone interview. “Where else in the world can you leave a place for 10 or so years, come back and still have the same people support an event? There aren’t many, but the people of Woodsfield do and I am thankful for that.”

The Woodsfield Run for Kids, which begins at 8 a.m., is a 12-hour run that entails a mile-long loop in Woodsfield. The runners garner pledges, and then run as many miles as they can over the time span.

“The race started as a 24-hour run, but we felt that if we shortened it to 12 hours, we could generate more money,” Kozlesky said. “We average $20-30 thousand a year.”

The race started at the Monroe County Airport, but an expansion project put the race on hold until Woodsfield Council encouraged Kozlesky to bring the race into the downtown area.

“The council has been great with us,” Kozlesky said. “They set up the course, shut down the streets (for safety) and help out any way they can.”

During the course of the race, an individual in Woodsfield leaves town for the weekend and lets the out of town racers stay in his house. Traditions Restaurant in Woodsfield feeds the runners dinner and the Methodist Church provides breakfast on Saturday morning, and then the VFW hosts the post-race dinner.

“The people of Woodsfield are fantastic,” Kozlesky said. “I can’t stress enough that this race goes on because of the work of the people in the community. They know what Children’s Hospital is and have regards for it and have seen the efforts of it in the community.”

The original idea for this event occurred when Kozlesky met Mitch Toto. The pair decided to do a run from Woodsfield to Pittsburgh to raise money.

“Both of us worked with and loved kids,” Kozlesky said. “We wanted to make a difference, so we crafted this to help raise some money to help kids.”

The first year of trying, the duo raised just $200, but that grew to $2,000 the next year and has “kept building” ever since.

A few years later, Kozlesky and Toto were approached by Dave Stucky, who talked the pair into doing a 24-hour run around the Ohio Valley Mall in St. Clairsville. Due to safety issues, that idea didn’t last long and the event shifted to Woodsfield fulltime.

Kozlesky is hopeful the race continues to flourish.

“I plan on doing this for at least 15 more years,” Kozlesky said. “I’m not sure I can keep my body going, but I think I have the commitment from the people of Monroe County. I want to see the race continue for as long as possible.”

In its history, the race has raised more than $600,000.

Anyone wishing to donate are encouraged to contact Kozlesky at 614-891-2194, or you can mail the donation to him at 254 Brownstone Court, Westerville, OH 43081.

Staskey can be reached at sstaskey@timesleaderonline.com