Virtual 5K supports derecho relief


Courtesy Photo

Many Iowa communities suffered damage during the derecho in August. UNI students have organized a virtual 5K to raise money for derecho relief efforts.


On Aug. 10, a derecho swept through Iowa that caused large amounts of damage all across the state. Families were left with severe damage to their homes, communities were destroyed and people were left without running water or electricity for days on end. For many, this storm left lasting effects on their hometowns that are still facing the recovery process.

As communities continue to heal from the storm, a group of UNI students have searched for ways they can help with the disaster relief. Public relations: event planning majors Isaiah Finan, Kassie Remley and Haley Toepfer are among a group of Dr. Gayle Pohl’s special events planning students that have been finding ways to raise money for the cause.

The Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation has partnered with this group of students to host a virtual “Panther 5K Derecho Relief Run.” The fundraiser will raise money to help the Cedar Rapids community heal from the damage that occurred in August. 

Those interested in participating in the virtual run can complete their 5K whenever and however they like, then send a 30 second video to [email protected] by Oct. 31 explaining why they chose to participate in the fundraiser.

Participants can fundraise by having friends or family sponsor them for the 5K, since registration for the event is free. Prizes will be awarded to the top three participants who raise the most money.

Finan, one of the students in charge of the event, said that the funds are being raised for “low-income families that are still suffering from the effects of the derecho.” 

All funds raised will be donated straight to Linn County’s disaster relief program in order to aid with the costs accumulated by the storm to help families in need and to address other areas of the community that are still seeing effects from the storm.

The virtual event itself will be held Nov. 7. The event will feature videos from participants, information from the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation and, finally, the announcement of the three prize winners and grand total.

When asked why the three students wanted to participate in the event, it was clear this was more than just a class project. They all agreed that they wanted to help both the Iowa and UNI communities as much as they could in their time of need.

“Many UNI students are either from the Cedar Rapids area or know someone who was impacted by the derecho itself,” said Finan. “For us, this event is more than a fundraiser. It is bringing the Panther community together to show that we care, and that we want to make a difference. We hope to offer needed assistance to the victims of the storm through our event.”

Davenport native Remley said the project also meant a lot to her and her own life.

“It makes me feel happy to know that my classmates and I want to help out these people, even if it’s just a little,” she wrote. “I’ve always had a passion for helping people, and I’m very proud to be a leader in planning this fundraiser.”

Dr. Gayle Pohl admires the students’ choice for their class project. 

“They saw a need and wanted to fill that need with their skills,” said Pohl. “Never will I downplay societal compassion and never will I stop students, from running to help those needs. That is what our profession is all about. We problem-solve with various strategic plans and techniques.”

The virtual 5K event will take place on Nov. 7. Those interested can search “Panther 5K Derecho Relief Run” on Facebook to learn more or register for the event.

For those who are not interested in running in the virtual race, another way to help is by donating at under the Disaster Recovery Fund tab. Add “Panther 5K” to the honorarium section of your donation.