FRONTRUNNERS/FRONTWALKERS CHICAGO

ORGANIZATION | Inducted 1995.

Formed in 1982 as Frontrunners Chicago to promote running related activities, the gay and lesbian club now has dozens of counterparts in this country and abroad. It is the largest walking and running club in Chicago and has raised thousands of dollars for lesbian and gay groups as well as AIDS, lesbian health, and general community charities.

Frontrunners/Frontwalkers Chicago was officially established in July 1982 by Peg Grey, Rob Williams, and Jim White, with the intent of serving the gay and lesbian community by promoting activities related to running. The club took its name from The Front Runner, a best-selling novel by Patricia Nell Warren in which running is a symbol of gay and lesbian pride. A Front Runners network currently includes clubs in 24 states and the District of Columbia, three clubs in Canada, and six in other countries.

In 1989, the Frontwalkers group was added in Chicago for those who prefer walking. The Chicago club now has 350 members and is the largest walking and running club in the city. Since its founding, Frontrunners/Frontwalkers Chicago has met each Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. and each Saturday at 9 a.m. in Lincoln Park, at Addison Street and Lake Shore Drive. One-hour runs and walks start and end at the Totem Pole there, followed by a breakfast of food and friendship.

Social, athletic, and volunteer events are organized monthly, providing a nonthreatening and supportive entry into the gay and lesbian community for persons who are coming out, and a healthful way for gay men and lesbians to meet, exercise, and socialize. Frontrunners/Frontwalkers Chicago offers a noncompetitive sports environment for those members who savor the simple joy of running, yet is extremely supportive of those runners for whom competing is a goal.

In 1991, Frontrunners/Frontwalkers Chicago began hosting Proud To Run, the gay and lesbian Pride Day races founded by the Metropolitan Sports Association. Since then, the races have grown to include 400 entrants and have been sanctioned by the Chicago Area Runners Association. In 1993, the 10K race was voted as one of the top three in Chicago by the readers of Windy City Sports.

Since 1991, through Proud To Run and its related activities, Frontrunners/Frontwalkers Chicago has raised about $72,000 for local AIDS service organizations and lesbian health programs, such as Open Hand Chicago, Test Positive Aware Network, the AIDS Alternative Health Project, Better Existence with HIV, the Howard Brown Women’s Health Project, and the Lesbian Community Cancer Project.

Frontrunners/Frontwalkers Chicago makes valuable and visible contributions to events that include the Chicago Marathon, Hard Rock 5K, Shamrock Shuffle, Jingle Bell 5K, Corporate Challenge, and AIDS Walk Chicago. The group also provides the entire staff for the 5K walk in the Chicago Distance Classic. These events benefit such organizations as the Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and the American Lung Association.

Frontrunners/Frontwalkers Chicago’s involvement at such events strengthens the presence of gay and lesbian Chicagoans in the city’s life and presents a positive image to all Chicagoans. Frontrunners/Frontwalkers Chicago also helps the gay and lesbian community by providing both an opportunity to get to know one another in a healthful environment but also a chance to contribute individual talents to the good of the larger community.

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