As a sixteen-year old, Rebecca Osthus decided to undertake a monumental task. She set out to organize a 5K race with the purpose of raising money to support Polk County 4-H youth activities in memory of Joy Niklasen. Joy was a former county youth coordinator for Polk County 4-H who died in a car crash in September of 2014. She is remembered for her energy and enthusiasm in doing so much to help the Polk County 4-H youth. Joy represented the Extension Office on the Polk County 4-H Advisory Board, planned different workshops for the county, and helped coordinate the Polk County Awards Ceremony.
Rebecca named the race the “Polk County Clover Dash 5K” and decided to have it take place on the Iowa State Fairgrounds during the Polk County Fair when many 4-H activities are taking place. The first race was held on Saturday, July 25, 2015. It was a great success! There were approximately 230 participants and 70 volunteers. Money raised has been used to fund scholarships for 4-H seniors to attend college, support 4-H youth to attend the 4-H summer conference held in Ames, and to promote youth involvement in 4-H.
Putting on this event was a big learning experience for Rebecca. She decided to do the work for this on her own with a little help from her parents. 4-H County Youth Coordinators Katie Beary and Marci Vinsand provided invaluable support. Rebecca discovered and managed all of the details that go into putting on a 5K race. She had multiple meetings with county fair officials as well as state fair officials, designed t-shirts and medals, and met with media representatives. Her most challenging part of this, due to her age, was getting sponsors. However, she did manage to secure enough sponsors to more than cover the costs so that all of the registration fees could go to support 4-H youth activities.
The 2nd Annual Polk County Clover Dash 5K was held on Saturday, July 23, 2016. In planning for this race, Rebecca began mentoring a younger 4-H member, Laurel McGonegle, so that she could take over directing the race after Rebecca graduated from high school. Rebecca envisioned this race continuing in the future remembering the contributions of Joy Niklasen, raising more money while involving more kids in 4-H, and becoming bigger each year.
Some of the changes Rebecca made for the second annual race were:
• Race timing used chip-timing services to ensure greater accuracy of times
• Race start was moved up one hour to 8:30 AM to provide a “cooler” run/walk
• Race results were posted online to make them available to everyone
• Registration could be done online
The 2nd Annual Polk County Clover Dash was also a huge success. Once again there were over 200 participants, and the number of volunteers increased to almost 100. The post race food distribution was moved to inside the 4-H building providing air conditioned comfort. Proceeds from this race again were able to fund scholarships for some 4-H seniors and support for various 4-H youth activities.
The 3rd Annual Polk County Clover Dash was held on Saturday, July 22, 2017! This race was to build on the success of the previous two years. A planning committee, under the direction of Rebecca Osthus and Laurel McGonegle, involved more 4-H youth spreading the responsibilities among more individuals. This committee will continue in the future looking at ways to involve even more people in the race, in volunteering, or in just watching. Participants and spectators will always be invited to enjoy all of the 4-H displays and activities that take place before and after the race inside the 4H building!