Easter Sun Run Beginnings

Easter Sun Run 1994
Jim Presnell and Easter Sun Run 1994

Jim Presnell was Youth Horizons’ first Director of Mentoring when it was in its early 1990s origins. He was also Associate Pastor at River Community Church, which was Youth Horizons’ main source of support—about 80% of Mentors were from this church! As an avid, competitive runner, Jim would notice what races were doing well and what they were lacking. This led to him jokingly talking about putting one together himself—and then he seriously considered it.

If he were going to put on a race, however, he wanted it to be for a good cause, a way to help an organization. Using his church’s involvement with Youth Horizons, it was a perfect opportunity to create a fun way to promote the nonprofit, creating Youth Horizons’ first, largest, and longest-standing fundraiser!

To get started, Jim contacted Run Wichita’s expert, Clark Ensz. Jim was a board member and knew Clark’s experience would be a huge help in getting things started. They brainstormed and Clark pointed out that 10K races were nonexistent at the time – and organizing one would set this race apart from others. What would also make this race stand out? Setting the date for a weekend no one would touch—Easter weekend. Clark said, “There’s one weekend that no one will ever do a race on because they’re afraid to— it’s Easter weekend,” Jim reminisced. He continued, “Let’s do that one. This is a Christian organization, and we want to help. Let’s lean into it and see if we might get some traction.”

Working with Clark gave Jim several ideas and ways to make this race successful. With that success, it would expose Youth Horizons to the community in a way that made the nonprofit look good by putting
on a quality event—a race that happens to be a fundraiser. They also wanted it to attract lead runners in the Wichita area and the Midwest and knew the only way to do that was to offer cash prizes since elite
runners earn money from competitions. Clark suggested certifying the course so that if someone breaks a record, it is official and goes in the record book, making it even more enticing for competitive runners.

The race turned out to be two events: the race itself and the afterparty. They prepared a home-cooked meal with desserts for everyone who participated. From this, the Easter Sun Run became known for its
hospitality because so many details were considered – how to serve and how to be there for the runners and participants. People saw that difference and it was compelling. “The whole church [River Community] helped,” said Jim. “That was a real advantage we had with our race. Races typically struggled getting volunteers, but we never had that problem because as the race grew, the church was also growing.” The biggest crowd Jim ever saw at the race was 5,000 people. That’s a lot of burgers and dogs to grill!

Volunteers were a huge help, as were sponsors. The first sponsor – who still supports the Easter Sun Run to this day – was Robert Donovan, owner of Donovan Auto. Other generous sponsors included Pepsi Cola providing beverages, Coleman providing products for prizes, and a Newton hospital which provided medical support from EMT’s.

Thank you, Jim Presnell, for sharing your wonderful story of commitment and innovation, creating a lasting event that will be 30 years old on March 30th!