Hundreds of volunteers gather to pack swag bags for the upcoming Chicago Marathon during the annual packathon held at Opportunity Enterprises in Valparaiso, Ind., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012. | Charles Mitchell~For Sun-Times Media
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Updated: October 19, 2012 6:09AM
With pumping pop music and assembly line precision, about 700 volunteers spent the morning of Saturday, Sept. 15, packing the swag bags that will go to runners in the Oct. 7 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
“This group of people here is preparing our race packets, 45,000 of them, that will go to runners from all 50 states and 121 countries, so it’s kind of a neat thing,” said Carey Pinkowski, executive race director, who stopped by to witness the effort and urge the crowd on.
Opportunity Enterprises’ annual packathon is the largest single volunteer day in the region, as well as a fundraiser for the agency, which provides services to people with disabilities. The effort generates about $23,000, said Alyse Kominakis, the agency’s events specialist.
OE has had a marathon team — another fund-raiser — for 14 years, and started its contract to pack the bags the following year, Kominakis said during the event.
The white bags emblazoned with the marathon logo included 28 items, including therapeutic wraps and fitness fliers.
Volunteers included scouts, student groups from area schools and universities, local businesses, and individuals who just wanted to lend a hand. That included Michelle Michaels of Valparaiso, who helped pack the bags with some friends.
She’s helped with other volunteer events at OE, including putting Christmas decorations up outside a group home. Michaels likes to help out, she said, because OE is such a great organization.
“Whenever they ask for volunteers, it’s just a good thing to come out and support them,” she said.
Purdue University-North Central had about 15 students and staff pitch in with the packathon. The campus has helped out with the event the past six or seven years, service learning coordinator Laura Weaver said.
“It’s a party and it’s helping out a really good organization,” Weaver said. “It’s just a really great way to get up on a Saturday morning and do something for someone else.”