Walk for Warmth, an annual fundraiser in La Grande conducted to help the less fortunate with heating costs, has generated slightly more than $103,000 in contributions since it started in 2009, according to Community Connection of Northeast Oregon.

A portion of this money has been raised by an organization whose members have helped Walk for Warmth since year one without ever donning walking shoes — the Grande Ronde Road Runners.

The club, which has a major community service orientation, conducts a “Run for Warmth” consisting of a 5-kilometer and a 10-kilometer run during the Walk for Warmth, events which many club members participate in. The club will be at it again Saturday at the 11th annual edition of the Community Connection fundraiser.

The runs complement the walking portion of the morning fundraiser. Walkers generate donations by collecting pledges before the event. According to the Road Runners’ Facebook page, runners don’t need a pledge sheet and can simply show up with a donation to help those with heating challenges.

“It is a great event and we help support it for people who want to run,” said Jeff Crews, co-director of the Grande Ronde Road Runners with Armando Garcia.

Crews said he is excited about the chance to assist the community.

“There are always people in need. It is easy to help other people,” he said.

The running club will record the times of all finishers of both runs and post them on the Grande Ronde Road Runners’ Facebook page.

Walk for Warmth is one of three community service events the Grande Ronde Road Runners are involved in each year. The club also conducts a Turkey Trot run in November to raise money for United Way, and in December’s Reindeer Run, club members dress in red and green clothing and run a loop, making stops at care centers in La Grande where they sing Christmas carols.

Bill Grigsby, an Eastern Oregon University sociology professor, who assists Walk for Warmth, said the contributions the Grande Ronde Road Runners make to Walk for Warmth each year are quite meaningful.

“They are a valuable fixture every year,” he said.

Another fixture is Ellen Krieger of Summerville who sews a quilt that is raffled off each year at Walk for Warmth. Krieger has been doing this for about seven years.

“She is a star (of Walk for Warmth),” Grigsby said.

The quilt Krieger made for this year’s Walk for Warmth will be given away at a noon drawing. Raffle tickets are $5, and only 200 will be sold. Tickets can be purchased at the Union County Senior Center Saturday morning.

See complete story in Friday's Observer