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Finding Waldo no problem at downtown event
For once, it wasn’t hard to find Waldo. In fact, it wasn’t hard to find hundreds of Waldos in Colorado Springs on Sunday.
About 1,000 people showed up for the inaugural Waldo Waldo 5-kilometer run and walk at America the Beautiful Park dressed in the red-and-white striped shirts and hats popularized by Waldo, a character featured in a series of kids illustrated seek-and-find books.
What was difficult? Finding the right Waldo. Friends and neighbors, drawn to the fundraiser for the Waldo Canyon Fire Relief Effort, found themselves standing next to one another and not knowing it
“I didn’t recognize you,” said Jessica Chambers, hugging co-worker Paul Thompson, dressed in matching shirt, hat, glasses and black shorts.
“How can you recognize anyone?” responded Thompson, laughing. “It’s all Waldos!”
See photos from the Waldo Waldo 5K!
The burned ridgeline near Blodgett Peak loomed in the distance, a grim reminder of the devastating blaze that erupted June 23 near the popular Waldo Canyon trail in Ute Pass and destroyed 346 houses and 18,247 acres of forest.
“We look up and see the burned area every day,” said Amy Porto, of Colorado Springs, who works at Veterinary Specialty Center. She ran the 5K with co-workers Kim Spelts and Kara McArdell. The vet center cared for fire evacuees’ animals and the women learned that some clients’ homes had burned. “I was busy and wasn’t able to do too much during the fire, but this is a great way to help with the recovery,” Porto said.
“We like to run, and this is a great way to help and try to extend that sense of community we all experienced after the fire,” Spelts said. “Everyone came together to help one another and it felt like we were a town of 5,000. This is one way to keep that spirit going.”
Many of Sunday’s runners said the lighthearted event was just what they needed after a stressful summer. That’s just what the fundraiser’s mastermind, Chelise Foster, had in mind.
Foster works for Elope, the crazy hat and costume company based in Colorado Springs. It holds the licensing rights to the Waldo character and she had been thinking of something wild that would pair the two Waldos — maybe massed Waldos hiking the trail.
When the fire devastated the trail, one of the region’s most popular, she knew she had to help with its recovery. “And I knew we had to do something fun. Pairing Waldo hikers or runners with the Waldo Fire relief effort seemed like a natural.”
Elope’s owners jumped on board and agreed to supply as many Waldo costumes as needed. “What better way to help? What more fun way?” said co-owner Keith Johnson, dressed Sunday as the Whitebeard Wizard, another character from the Waldo books.
“I was hoping to get 50 people. I thought 50 people would be cool,” Foster said. “After people started signing up, I thought 250 people would be amazing, more than I could’ve imagined. More than 1,000? I am so touched that people came out to support us.”
Co-mastermind Randi Hitchcock, co-founder of UpaDowna, a local nonprofit focused on getting people of all ages outdoors, said the event was geared to anyone who wanted to help the cause. “We didn’t want a race, no time clocks. We wanted people to come out and have a good time.”
Johnson estimated the event raised at least $20,000 for the relief effort, with the money funneled to the Pikes Peak Community Foundation.
“We like to run and this is raising money for such a good cause,” said runner Jon Vigne, of Colorado Springs. “And it’s great to see so many people come together in a positive way.”
Johnson said Elope is ready to sign on for another year.
In the meantime, expect to see a lot of Waldos and Wendas, his female companion, on Halloween. Think of it as Take Waldo to Work Day.