Inspirational reading led First United Methodist Church Associate Pastor Ronnie Collins to take a few steps to help others — enough steps to complete 26.2 miles, that is.
Collins, who has seven complete marathons to his name, will take part in the Atlanta Marathon on Thanksgiving Day to help raise funds for an orphanage in southern Sudan.
Collins said he got the idea from “Take Your Best Shot,” which chronicles how Austin Gutwein turned a love of basketball into a fundraising machine that funded a school and hospital in Africa.
“The thing someone asked him, what’s your passion? You can change the world with your passion,” Collins said. “He said I like to play basketball — I’m not good at it but I like to play basketball. He decided to start raising money by shooting hoops. He got people to sponsor him by shooting hoops and that has become a national organization, Hoops for Hope.”
That got Collins thinking. Besides God and his family, one of his strongest passions is running. He knew the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church — of which FUMC is a member — adopted southern Sudan as one of its mission projects. That’s when Collins’ plan developed.
“The Holston Conference has adopted Southern Sudan as one of our mission projects we’re focusing on because of the genocide that happened there for years,” Collins said. “There are still a lot of homeless children there, rummaging from place to place to find a safe place to sleep, trying to find food to eat, things of that nature. Our conference is looking at plans for an orphanage for those children that have no home. I decided through my running, I would raise some money to go toward helping those children and that orphanage.”
After about three weeks, Collins said he has already generated close to $1,000.
“A lot of people are doing $1 a mile or $2 a mile. I had one guy offer me $10,000 if I could do it in 2:05, which is not possible for me,” Collins said with a chuckle, noting his best time was 4:15. “I told him I’m praying for the miracle of all miracles.”
Collins set a time of 4:00 to complete the marathon and he’s currently training for the run, but he’s not setting an accompanying financial goal.
“The human part of me wants to set a goal but I haven’t,” he said. “I don’t know what to set or what to expect.”
But, Collins expects to turn this marathon into a local fundraising venture for other causes.
“I do plan, preliminarily, to start a running group specifically for raising funds for charity,” Collins said. “That will come after the run. It could be a good way to have fun and raise money and it makes good fellowship groups when you do things like that.”
Those interested in helping can send checks payable to Holston Conference to P.O. Box 356, Hillsville, VA 24343. Collins said the remitter line should indicate, “Hope for the Children of Sudan.”