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Back Tutu School 2.0

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By Nick Schrager

Last year, with the air wet and thick, Spalding Avenue was flooded to epic proportions, but not with water. Instead, the street was flooded by men, women, children and pets wearing tutus of all shapes, sizes and colors. 

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And they were doing it for a good cause, to benefit the Marion County’s Girls on the Run program.

Downtown Lebanon can expect to see the flood return this weekend as the Back Tutu School 2.2-mile Family Fun Run/Walk returns at 8 a.m. July 26. 

According to Stevie Lowery, coordinator of Marion County’s Girls on the Run program, 200 participants have pre-registered for the event and though pre-registration has expired, people can still sign up on race day. 

This year’s run/walk will follow the same course as last year’s. The event will start near St. Augustine Grade School in Lebanon and take participants to the Marion County Health Department and back. 

Also like last year, music will be provided by Breakfast Boy Entertainment and awards will be given out for the best tutu in various categories, including largest tutu family, youngest tutu participant, oldest tutu participant, most creative tutu, manliest tutu, biggest tutu, most colorful tutu, most sparkalicious tutu, best themed tutu, most spirit and spunk and best four-legged tutu participant.

All of the money raised this year will again go to the Girls on the Run program.

Girls on the Run is a national program that started in 1996, and has been empowering young girls in Marion County since 2011. The mission, as stated on their website, is to “inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.”

The program has several core values, which include helping girls recognize and embrace each other’s differences and similarities and helping girls stand up for themselves and others.

When Marion County’s program started in 2011, there were only nine girls. Since then, the program has expanded to each public elementary school, and in 2013, 54 girls took part in the program. 

Each school is limited to 16 girls in all. 

“This event is important to us, financially, because we are adding yet another school this year,” Lowery said. 

Girls on the Run will be adding St. Augustine Grade School this fall.

Lowery said last year’s event was a success and it raised more than $3,600 for the group of young girls. 

“I was just ecstatic with the turnout last year and with how much fun it was and how easygoing people were about it,” Lowery said. “People realized it was simply for fun. It’s not a timed event.”

And people of all ages showed up dressed to impress. While individual participants wore various tutus, some families and friends showed up with themed outfits such as characters from “Duck Dynasty” and the film “Despicable Me.” There were also people dressed as superheroes. 

“We had 275 participants last year, ranging from six weeks of age to 81 years old,” Lowery said. 

Harry VanWhy, who participated last year dressed as Santa Claus, said he enjoyed the event. He will be participating with his family and his dog, Pugster, again this year, but he will not be returning as Santa.

“I’m looking forward to a big turnout and a beautiful day,” VanWhy said, “and raising some serious money for Girls on the Run. That’s what it’s all about.”

He added if people haven’t signed up for the event, they should because they’re missing out on one of the most good and well-meaning times of the year. 

Now only three days away, Lowery is excited to see the people who show up this year and plans on the event coming again in 2015 and beyond. 

She said they plan on making it an annual event, which will take place the last Saturday of July. 

“I hope this event will continue for years to come because it’s so much fun,” Lowery said.

Race day details

Pre-registration for the Back Tutu School. Run has ended, but those interested in participating can still sign up on race day.

Registration will begin at 7 a.m. Saturdya. The run starts at 8 a.m.

The cost to participate is $15 with a t-shirt (extra shirts have been ordered, but there is no guarantee every participant will receive one) or $10 without a shirt. Children 5 years old and younger are free, though a shirt will cost $5.

On Friday, pre-registered individuals can pick up their race bags at The Lebanon Enterprise office from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The bag will include their shirt and bib.