On Friday, June 20th, Northern Michigan non-profit On The Ground and area runners will embark on their annual Solstice Run, a unique Northern Michigan sport event/fundraiser during which runners navigate Leelanau County on the shortest night of the year.  The Michigan Land Use Institute’s Hans Voss set the pace for the inaugural run six years ago—read on to learn more about the casual beginnings of the evening event, and how you can sponsor Hans and other runners taking part in this year’s run to raise money for disadvantaged women in central Africa.  MyNorth Media would like to thank Mr. Voss for contributing the following content.

Learn more about the Solstice Run at OnTheGroundGlobal.org.

I am writing to see if you might be interested in helping to support a terrific women’s empowerment program in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by supporting an all-night run that I will be involved with on Friday, June 20th.

Six years ago my friend Chris Treter and I began training for a 50-mile trail run. We’d run late at night some days. Other days we’d get up really early. I always thought it was fun to be out running while everyone was sleeping. Then the idea arrived: Wouldn’t it be awesome to run all night from sunset to sunrise? And why not on the summer solstice? I asked Chris Treter and he committed without hesitation (that without hesitation part is one of the reasons Chris and I get along so well). Then over a slice of pizza at Pangea’s Pizza I told Chris Girrbach about the run and he jumped in, and then another friend of mine, Matt Desmond, signed up as well.

When the day of the summer solstice came in 2009 the four of us were standing on the beach in Empire watching the sun drop in into Lake Michigan and then we started running. And we kept running and running. Matt only planned to run half the night so he pulled out about half way. Chris Treter ran into some chafing challenges that have become the fodder of running legend (but I won’t go into that here). We missed at least one of our food and water stops, we wondered if it was even possible to run all night—if we’d even make it. But then the sky lightened just a bit, the birds started chirping, and we reached the slow downhill toward Suttons Bay. We arrived at the beach the very instant the sun was just beginning to rise out of the lake on the other side of the Leelanau Peninsula. Jubilation.

We’ve done it three consecutive years now. Each year a few more people join in. We’ve done different routes—usually about 40 miles (one year that I was in charge of the route we got lost and ran about 43). Always sunset to sunrise. And, interestingly every time, we have arrived just as the sun has emerged from the lake.

Last year, we ramped it up big by partnering with On the Ground and making the run a fundraiser to help build a library in Ethiopia. We must have had 40 runners. That was a part of the work we had done in conjunction with Run Across Ethiopia, which was a huge undertaking that On the Ground organized that resulted in the construction of threes schools in parts of Ethiopia. Much of the vision for this was shaped through training runs and Solstice Runs, and Chris T., Chris G., Matt and I feel really fortunate to have had the chance to join other American and Ethiopian runners to complete a 240 mile run across that beautiful country a few years ago. Since the Run Across Ethiopia, On the Ground has also successfully completed the Run Across Palestine (I sat that one out), and a number of great water projects in Chiapas, Mexico.

So, the idea with the Solstice Run that is coming up in a few days is to leverage it as a vehicle to build support for the people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Chris Treter and Tim Young (another crucial player in all of this) have made some terrific connections with people there to bring resources to help woman help themselves and their families to get some traction toward opportunity. They are putting together the Run Across the Congo for next year (which will be totally great I am sure).

I have had the chance to see the results of On the Ground’s work first hand in Chiapas and Ethiopia. It’s making a big difference in people’s lives. I know the organization. I see how the money flows directly to the intended use and how amazingly efficient they are with their resources. It’s a lean non-profit that makes a huge impact. As many of you know, I have put the bulk of my life’s work in to advancing the mission of the Michigan Land Use Institute to support the best future for the great state of Michigan. For my wife, Maureen, and me, being involved with On the Ground is a wonderful way to help people in other countries by working with a small group here in Traverse City—people who we know and trust.

So, if you are interested in this and want to jump in with a donation, that would be great. If not, no worries. No pressure whatsoever from me. It’s a little sensitive for me to raising funds for another non-profit when I do a fair bit of fundraising for the MLUI. For me, though, there is no conflict. It’s both local and global.

Find information and support On The Ground at the following links:

Thanks for you interest,


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