Oak Lawn is gearing up for the 3rd Annual Sully Shuffle 5K Run/3K Walk coming up on Sunday, Sept. 18. It’s named after one of Oak Lawn’s local heroes, Skip Sullivan, a former Oak Lawn Community High School teacher, and the current assistant girls’ basketball coach.
After attending Oak Lawn Community High School as a student, Sullivan went away to college, but later returned, becoming a celebrated coach, assistant athletic director and beloved teacher.
Life took a different turn when Sully was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease seven years ago. The Sully Shuffle Foundation was created in his honor to help raise money to fight against Parkinson’s disease.
The Sully Shuffle 5K Run/3K Walk is the main fundraiser for the foundation. In the first two years, the event has raised $45,000 for the American Parkinson Disease Association Midwest Chapter.
“This race promotes community pride in an event that is very close to home,” says Kathy Mertz, secretary for the Sully Shuffle Foundation and staff member at OLCHS. “Since the Sully Shuffle began, it has been amazing how many families in the high school and community have told us how they have been personally touched by this disease.”
Last year’s race had over 500 participants. Oak Lawn and many other South Side communities have rallied behind Sullivan through the Sully Shuffle event. Members of the foundation expect to see even greater numbers this year.
“The Sully Shuffle is now a certified race which means it has been certified to give points to runners who are trying to qualify for major races,” Mertz says. “Our number of participants have been great and we hope this will motivate new runners to join in the fundraiser.”
The race starts out at Oak Lawn Community High School, located at 9400 Southwest Highway in Oak Lawn. It has been a place where Sullivan has seen a generous outpouring of love and support.
Janet Haubenreiser, a business teacher and head girls basketball coach at Oak Lawn, serves as the president of the Sully Shuffle Foundation. She is also a long time friend of Sullivan.
“Skip [Sullivan] is like a member of my family. He was one of my teachers when I went to OLCHS and became my mentor when I came back as a teacher and coach,” says Haubenreiser. “His positive attitude is what inspired us to start this foundation. We wanted to raise funds for Parkinson’s disease research in hopes that one day they find a cure.”
Outside of those participating in the race, there has been a growing number of volunteers who have joined in to help facilitate the event. Of these volunteers, over 50 Oak Lawn students have also gotten behind the effort.
Participants can register for the Sully Shuffle 5K Run/3K Walk online or in person on the day of the event. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. The Mini Shuffle, a short race on the track for kids ages 2 through 10, starts at 8:30 a.m. and the 5K run/3K walk begins at 9 a.m.
The top overall runner in the race will receive a free pair of running shoes from Running for Kicks in Palos Heights. The top two runners in each age group and male/female groups will be presented with medals after the race.
While the foundation mainly raises funds for Parkinson’s disease research during the Sully Shuffle race, donations are accepted all year long on the Sully Shuffle Foundation website. Other donations, such as food and drinks for the event, along with prizes for raffles are also welcomed.
These donations allow the foundation to give more to the American Parkinson Disease Association Midwest Chapter. For more information on making donations or to volunteer, contact Janet Haubenreiser at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“All of the proceeds goes toward Parkinson’s disease research and although none of the money raised goes to Skip personally, the Sully Shuffle has been great medicine for Sully,” says Haubenreiser. “This event is about more than raising money, it’s about supporting a great guy who was always there when everyone else needed him.”
On the day of the event, Sully will be waiting at the finish line to congratulate all of the runners and to thank them for their support. This race has become a source of strength for him in his journey.
“The Sully Shuffle has really given me hope and when you get hope it makes you stronger,” says Sullivan. “When I see all those people out there supporting not just me, but all of the people with Parkinson’s, it’s about the best thing I can get. It’s like they say, ‘you gotta have heart’ and if you have a good heart, you need to share it to give people hope.”
After the Sully Shuffle event, an after-party will be held at Homestead Barr, located at 9306 Central Avenue in Oak Lawn. The celebration will begin at 1 p.m.