BY KENDYL HOLLINGSWORTH
There’s still time to get started on those fitness New Year’s resolutions — and help foster families in the process.
The BigHouse Foundation, a local nonprofit ministry aiming to meet the needs of foster families, will host its first in-person BigHouse Hustle 5K and Fun Run Jan. 21 at the Auburn Marriott Opelika Resort and Spa at Grand National.
The one-mile fun run will kick off at 8 a.m., with the 5K following at 8:30 a.m.
“This will be a fun morning for all ages and stages of racers,” the signup page reads. “Whether you plan to place first in your age group or walk the entire thing, this is a family friendly event for everyone.”
While BigHouse Hustles in the past have been virtual because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year will be the first time participants will have the chance to meet together and run or walk the event.
“It’s going to be really fun to get the community involved,” said Micah Melnick, founder and executive director of BigHouse. “A lot of what BigHouse does is not open to the community. We do tons of events, but they’re mostly for our families that we serve, so this is neat to have something where anybody can participate in it.”
Melnick said the first BigHouse Hustle was held virtually in May 2020. With the Coronavirus stay-at-home order in effect, Melnick said she and her husband Blake needed some motivation to get moving again, so they challenged themselves to run 100 miles in one month.
Then, they decided to do it again — but invite some friends to commit to the challenge as well.
“I think it was just so small, and then we started telling people just through Facebook and saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to do this thing,’” Melnick recaalled. “’We’re going to call it the BigHouse Hustle. You can choose — you don’t have to do 100. You could choose 31, 60 or 100 miles, which is like almost one, two or three miles a day.’”
Before they knew it, more than 550 people had signed up for the virtual Hustle — many of whom the Melnicks hadn’t met, from all over the United States.
“I think 22 states were represented in that first Hustle; it was insane,” Melnick said. “… I think at that exact moment in time, people were just so isolated and disconnected that it really gave people this … connectedness. And it got people moving.”
This year, Melnick said she is excited to see and meet many of the runners who have taken part in the virtual Hustle events — but also welcome anyone new who would like to participate. It’s also a chance to partner with other organizations in the vicinity of the new BigHouse headquarters, set to open later this year.
“It’s really cool because it’s going to be hosted by the Marriott, which is at Grand National, and our new address is Grand National Parkway … so we kind of feel like they’re welcoming us into the neighborhood,” she said. “National Village is out there, all the people out there have been really supportive and encouraging, and we hear from them a lot. … They’re excited about it being in their neighborhood.”
Registration for the BigHouse Hustle is $20 for the one-mile fun run and $30 for the 5K. Online registration is open through Wednesday, Jan. 18. All proceeds from BigHouse Hustles have supported the BigHouse building fund, which has allowed the nonprofit to expand its offerings in a new space, and Melnick said this Hustle will be no different.
She said she hopes the in-person Hustle will become an annual community event.
“Our goal is just to run a really good event so that we can build on it in the future because we’d love for this to be an annual thing that we partner with the Grand National group to do,” she added.
For more information about the BigHouse Hustle, or to register online, visit https://runsignup.com/Race/AL/Opelika/BigHouseHustle5k/. Registration will also be open in person on the day of the event. T-shirts will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.