You’re Suzanna Barry, the CEO of Community Living and Respite Services in Echuca and an email comes into your inbox from an unfamiliar sender.
“My name is Brady Johnson and I am wanting to run in Melbourne in July. Can you give me some information? Thanks, Brady”
Brady Johnson, 16 at the time, had heard CLRS wanted to have a team in Run Melbourne to raise funds for their Minor Street Project - a home and units for people with disability that were being built at the time. Suzanna followed up with Brady and arranged to meet him.
This is when things started…
And, at the time they would have never been able to predict what this first email would turn into.
Local legend and world champion water skier Brett Sands was first asked to join the team and was more than happy to do so without hesitation, together Suzanna, Brett and Brady pulled together a team of 14.
They designed their own singlets, partnered with the Moama Bowling Club, went to Melbourne, did the run and raised $31,000 between them.
The founding team of 14 in 2014 multiplied to 36 in 2015, 127 in 2016 and 213 in 2017
and over the years Johnno’s Run has contributed close to $250,000 towards homes for people with disability in Echuca and Moama.
It’s a good thing Suzanna replied to that initial email from Johnno.
“Johnno’s Run has become a major fundraising event for CLRS and has helped us to expand services for people with disability. It has also has played a pivotal role in raising awareness of the need for accessible housing and the impact that this has on independence for the person with disability and the ripple effects for families”, said Barry.
There’s a fair chance you’ve heard of or seen them If you’ve participated in Run Melbourne before but it’s worth asking the question, how does a small country town with a population of 19,000 get some many community members on board and raise so much awareness and money?
And, when you start looking into it, there’s more than one answer to that question.
“People enjoy being part of a group and working together towards an event which has been one of the reasons why Johnno’s Run has been successful and grown over the years. I think the community has become more aware of people with disabilities through Johnno’s Run and the impact it can have on changing people’s lives”, says Brett.
“The local community has recognised that participating in Johnno’s Run is a rewarding way to make a valued and lasting contribution to their community. Another aspect is that it is family friendly and teaches children that anyone can make a difference and the value of giving. This will stay with them all their lives and will no doubt contribute to higher levels of personal wellbeing”, says Suzanna.
Each year, Johnno continues to run and now in their 5th year the team continues to flourish.
They hold group runs every Monday night lead by local elite runner Brady Threlfall who has won the Half Marathon in 2016 and 2017 and each year, a week before the event they hold their breakfast where the massive team gets together and receives their singlets and thank sponsors.
The hype around it makes it more than just a lot of people coming together for a run on the streets of Melbourne.
“On race day I get super excited as your not running alone, you are running to make a difference not only in your life but many others. The buzz around the day is awesome and seeing all your team mates on course is just amazing”, says Sands.
On the day it’s similar emotions for Suzanna, “I feel immensely proud. Johnno’s Run has raised awareness of the importance of quality disability services. It has demonstrated to me that one person can make such a huge difference. His courage to have a go has motivated hundreds of people in our Community to get more active, has inspired over 2,500 donations and has strongly contributed to an inclusion movement in our community.”
A simple message with a desire to "have a go" has had amazing outcomes and will continue to benefit people with disability and their families for many years into the future.
There’s one thing for sure, if you’re participating in Run Melbourne this weekend you’ll see, hear and be impressed by the team from Johnno’s Run, they are an inclusive bunch doing their community proud.