We’ve pushed through the rainy spring season, and mountain area residents are ready for summer in full force. And there is no better way to kick-off the summer season than with the annual Mount Evans Home Health Care & Hospice Freedom Run on the Fourth of July. This year’s 41st 5k is open to runners, walkers and everyone in between, and as always, all proceeds will benefit Mount Evans Home Health Care & Hospice in Evergreen.
“I’ve done a lot of races—I’ve run every BOLDERBoulder. But [the Freedom Run] has always been special because it’s local and the whole community comes out,” says Ed Steinbrecher. He and his wife, Mary, are longtime Evergreen residents, and they have been supporting Mount Evans Home Health Care & Hospice for many years, including serving on the board. “Families come out, kids come out, dogs come out. The fact that it’s on the Fourth of July makes it very special because [extended] families are in town, and there’s a celebration after. The Freedom Run is a great way of kickstarting the whole day in a festive mood.”
Since 1990, the Steinbrechers have participated in the race, and they also manage the parking so that everyone in the neighborhood can enjoy the event safely and without frustration. “So many people show up to help,” Ed says. The community-mindedness of the Freedom Run begins before the race. “We coordinate with Evergreen Fire/Rescue. They let us use orange cones which we use to designate parking and no parking areas. We’ve always been able to use the Bergen Meadow Elementary and Evergreen Middle School parking areas, which is where the race starts.” If you’re participating as a racer or cheerleader on July 4, simply look for the arrow signs directing traffic, and Ed or another friendly face will direct you to a designated parking spot. “If the parking goes really well, I run up the hill and jump into the race—and usually the parking goes very well.”
But Ed doesn’t just show up to park cars. He doesn’t even show up simply because this is a 5k in his hometown. “Mount Evans is special. Evergreen is special. And so the run is special. It brings everything together. Your entry supports a very worthwhile endeavor,” he says. The Steinbrechers believe in the mission of Mount Evans, which is why they have been committed volunteers, donors and Freedom Run participants since 1990. “Mount Evans provides home health, palliative care, hospice. For all age groups. It covers everybody. Coming out and supporting [the Freedom Run] means supporting all of these efforts.”
The annual event is a marriage point between community fun and deeply meaningful community care. Leslee Hampel understands this profoundly. “It is so important that we have this organization in our community. We are lucky,” she says. Her husband, Fred, was suddenly and unexpectedly diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, and leaning on Mount Evans during that difficult time eased some of their suffering. “Our nurse was with us every step of the way. To have someone who can meet you in your home—without having to drive down to Denver—it’s invaluable. I can’t imagine what our experience would have been like if we hadn’t had Mount Evans.”
And so, for Leslee, the Freedom Run is a full-circle moment in both her healing process and in the life of her community. “By participating in this event, it’s a way I can give back and help support them. They were so supportive of me and Fred—it’s definitely part of the full circle,” she says. Plus, “The Freedom Run is a hoot! It’s a great way to celebrate our community in a happy and positive way. The fact that it supports Mount Evans is the icing on the cake!”
When we talk about grief, sometimes we forget to talk about unexpected joy. The work of Mount Evans is to uncover pockets of positivity—joy, support, peace—and remind us that the human experience embodies both. With a community as support, we can exist in both. Even the Freedom Run is demonstration of that. “Sometimes people are afraid [to participate] because they aren’t runners, but it’s not about that,” Leslee says, with a smile in her voice. “It’s for everybody. There are super-fast people and there are families with strollers and kids who are excited. It’s about having fun and supporting your community.”
Mount Evans makes inclusivity the goal, not only for the Freedom Run, but for community support. “A wide variety of people participate,” says Mount Evans President and CEO Keri Jaeger. “People come up to run, and maybe they haven’t heard of Mount Evans. This is our community’s opportunity to introduce people to our services.”
Bellwether, this year’s title sponsor, echoes this sentiment, and has always sought out opportunities to be a part of the community, even as a business. “We thought it was a perfect fit,” says Bellwether cofounder and president Josh Dembicki. “Bellwether cares for the outside of people’s homes and Mount Evans cares for people inside of their homes with their health care needs across the mountain community. The more we learned about the organization, the more impressed we were with the services they provide, and we are thrilled to be a part of the race.”
A festive event with a noble cause is the perfect ribbon to tie a community together. Ed notices how Mount Evans offers “high-level community involvement. It covers the whole mountain area. They’re a super group of people who have community interest at heart and they take the ball and run.”
Everyone should participate! Join your neighbors at the starting line at Evergreen Middle School Tuesday, July 4 at 8 am. Whether you walk, jog or sprint the race, everyone is invited to a post-run celebration at the Evergreen Athletic Club for prizes, music and refreshments. To register as a racer or volunteer, or for additional details, visit freedomrunrace.org.