Published Sept. 5, 2013
Runners focus on putting Mind over Miles
New fundraiser will raise money for The Community House’s counseling department
By Pamela Lannom
Tucked away in a corner of The Community House, a staff of three therapists counsels children, couples, families and adults.
People often are in crisis when they first arrive, and were it not for a sliding fee scale, many would not be able to afford the help (see sidebar).
A new fundraiser is designed to help keep those services accessible. Twenty-one individuals hope to raise $10,000 in pledges by running in the Chicago Half-Marathon Sunday, Sept. 8.
“We were looking for a fundraising initiative — a new, unique fundraising initiative for the organization,” said Michael Roth, development director for The Community House. “We felt as though the physical health component of a half marathon training (program) obviously overlaps with our counseling center. Physical and mental health, they’re connected.”
And so Mind Over Miles was born.
Among those running this Sunday will be Dan Janowick, director of programs and facilities for The Community House.
“For me, I’ve always been a runner, so running has been an important part of my life, something I’ve enjoyed,” he said. “The opportunity to combine my work and personal life was a pretty natural fit. They didn’t have to talk me into it.”
A veteran of the 2009 Chicago Marathon and several “mud” obstacle courses, Janowick has never run a half marathon.
“This will be my first official proper half marathon that doesn’t involve getting beat up along the way,” he said.
He has enjoyed training with other runners and working with Sara Fix, who was brought in to train the group. She is a 16-time Ironman finisher and co-owns Endure It! Sports in Willowbrook with her husband, David.
Janowick said he remains in a state of disbelief about what Sara Fix has accomplished.
“I love running for the thing that it’s a lifelong sport. I’m not necessarily going to be better at it in my 20s than in my 30s, and I see that in her.”
Fix has focused on helping the runners find a training program that takes into account their individual circumstances.
“I think that a lot of them opened up a Hal Higdon book and decided to follow a training plan that has nothing to do with them,” she said. “They run these runs and they go out and run the same pace, run after run. They’re not improving their speed. They’re not improving their technique. They’re not improving their form.
“I’ve been able to go in and help them with their form and technique. It’s about using effort and implementing effort and strength into a run that will actually make you faster and stronger.”
Longtime runner Jeff Miller, a trustee at The Community House, said working with Fix has been a great opportunity.
“I told my son about a month ago that I’ve run for 35 years and nobody has ever taught me how to run before,” he said. “I’ve never run in a group, never had professional training like we’re getting from Endure It. It’s been phenomenal. It’s been just great.
“Just this morning I ran four miles faster than I’ve run in a long time, and being 57 years old, I’m pretty excited about it.”
Paul Lambert also is an experienced runner; he will run his seventh consecutive marathon in October. He agreed with Miller that Fix has been a great asset to the team and said her commitment has far exceeded that of other trainers he has worked with in similar efforts.
“She and her husband really became part of the running group and I learned more this year through the times I was watching the group and listening to Sara talk about technique than I have in all of the other six years combined.”
Paul is running with his wife, Lisa, a trustee for The Community House and one of the fundraiser’s organizers. The two appreciate the opportunity to stay active and give back to the community, while also setting a good example for their three children.
“We’re teaching them something they can do for the rest of their lives,” he said.
Fix said she’s enjoyed working with the group and was happy to donate her services to support a cause like the counseling center.
“I just think it’s so important,” she said. “I feel a real draw to it emotionally and personally — trying to help people who are hurting or confused or whatever it is.”
Miller served as co-chairman of the Walk the Walk for Autism in April to benefit Charlie’s Gift Autism Center, which is run by The Community House. He believes more traditional events, such as golf outings, are giving way to fundraisers like Mind Over Miles.
“I think these are very effective and fun, he said. “These are good, new, creative ways to help awareness and raise some funds at the same time.”
Running to support the counseling department is a perfect fit in Janowick’s opinion.
“The idea of running for access to mental health is nice. Running is my therapy, whether I’m clearing my mind to help myself relax or thinking through things in a different way,” he said. “If it’s an excuse to run a race, this is a great one.”
The counseling center
If people need help, counselors at The Community House want to be there for them — even if they can’t afford the services.
About half of the counseling center’s clients are on a sliding fee scale, said Paul Quanbeck, a full-time therapist who has been serving as interim director of the center since March.
The scale, which is based on gross annual household income, allows clients to pay a portion of the $120 regular fee for a 45-minute session. The fees start at $30 and increase in $30 increments. A new grant from Community Memorial Foundation is allowing the department to charge just $5 over the next year for families and individuals who are most in need.
“Especially some of the families who qualify for a lower fee, they have a lot of challenges, financial and otherwise,” Quanbeck said. “They have a lot of things they are trying to deal with. I think the help and support and guidance they get here can make a lot of difference.”
Some 35 to 40 percent of the department’s case load are families with children, usually teens, Quanbeck said. Divorce, the death of a parent or behavioral issues often prompt families to seek help. The department also counsels couples and individuals.
The average time a counselor will spend with a teen and his family is 12 to 18 months, Quanbeck said. Each client goes through an assessment, and some require only four to eight sessions to work through a specific problem. Others stay much longer.
Quanbeck started seeing one his clients almost 10 years ago after his mother had committed suicide.
“I’m still seeing him. That’s probably not typical, although I have to say I have a handful of young men on my case load that I started seeing as adolescents.”
Many clients who have worked through their initial problems discover therapy can be a useful tool in managing other areas of life.
“Clients tell me this, they get so much out of it, beyond what they came in looking for help with,” Quanbeck said.