By Bob Uphues
A unique off-road 5K race christened last fall as a fundraiser for the Riverside-Brookfield High School athletic department was scrapped in late August, just three weeks after the school obtained approval for the event at a village board meeting.
The Riverside Village Board on Aug. 1 gave RBHS Athletic Director Art Ostrow the green light for the Oct. 5 Bulldog River Run. But on Aug. 21, Ostrow canceled the event after a key organizer, Jerry Buttimer, walked away from the event.
Buttimer, whose help Ostrow enlisted in the spring of 2012 to help with a fundraiser, ended his relationship with the race via a letter he handed to Ostrow and RBHS Principal Pamela Bylsma at a meeting on Aug. 21.
In the letter, he questioned Ostrow's commitment to the event and said the event lacked the vision he had for it as a fundraiser. Buttimer contended that the only way for such an event to raise significant money was to make it a signature event that showcased the high school and Riverside's riverfront landscape.
The 5K race, winding through Swan Pond and Riverside Lawn was to be just one part of the event. The 2013 race also initially included a 2.7K kayak race and a rubber duck race, which were later scrapped.
"It needed synergy to make money," said Buttimer. "I wanted the river, water, scenery. It would have been a good commercial. We should be able to build this to 500 people between the race, the duck, the kayaks and concessions. You could make $30,000. I wanted an event that would be special but have a residual [benefit] for the community."
When it was clear Ostrow only supported the 5K race, said Buttimer, he was no longer interested in doing it.
"I thought Art might still do it," said Buttimer. "But if it's race only, you don't need me. I planned it, mapped out the course, got permissions and the insurance certificate. My understanding was that he'd take the race and run with it. If the scope was that narrow, I wanted out."
Asked to comment on his decision to cancel the race, Ostrow said in an email that the event fell victim to "time constraints and scheduling conflicts, the latter making it difficult to host the event without the participation of many of our student athletes and coaches, who were our main source of volunteers at last year's event."
Asked by the Landmark how that could be the case if the date of the event was known for months, Bylsma replied by email, stating that Ostrow's decision to cancel the race had to do with changes in his duties at RBHS, which required more of his time and attention.
"Prior to making the decision to withdraw from hosting the race, Art carefully considered his increased administrative responsibilities, the difficulty of securing an adequate amount of volunteers this year, and the number of other fundraisers and events that he needs to manage and supervise during this busy time of the year," Bylsma wrote. "As his direct supervisor, I fully supported the reasoning behind his decision."
Neither Bylsma nor Ostrow addressed any differences of opinion with Buttimer about the event or Buttimer's letter and resignation as an organizer of the event.