MARION -- June is National LGBTQ+ Pride Month and a Johnston City teacher is taking a unique approach to raising awareness. On Saturday, June 26, Tim Kee will run 10 miles, from Marion to Carbondale, raising funds for the Rainbow Cafe LGBTQ Youth Center in Carbondale.
In addition to providing financial support to an important community group, Kee wants to send an important message to the community.
"I started with a simple idea of linking Marion to Carbondale, in the hopes of spreading inclusivity across county lines," Kee said. "I met with Marion Mayor Absher and it quickly escalated from there."
Kee's Bi-County Pride Run will start at Heartland Regional Medical Center at 8 a.m. and will follow Illinois Route 13 to Suites Drive in Carbondale, near The Furniture King.
Absher will be on hand as Kee begins his run and Carbondale Mayor Mike Henry will join Kee at the finish line.
While Kee is excited to have the two community leaders on-board, the Pride Run is definitely nonpartisan. "This is not a political event. It's a human event," Kee said. "I want this run to be conducted in the spirit it's been created, with love and positive energy."
Kee is prepared to go the distance alone, but would welcome others to join him.
"It's our goal to have LGBTQ and allies run with me," Kee said. "They can run or walk as much of the route as they want. Start at Heartland Regional or meet us in Carterville! We would also love to have supporters scattered at safe spots along the way on Route 13."
Kee chose to support Rainbow Cafe LGBTQ Youth Center because of his nearly three decades as a teacher in Southern Illinois.
"Rainbow Cafe has helped many of my former students," Kee said. "Southern Illinois Pride works hand-in- hand with the Rainbow Cafe to help area LGBTQ+ youth and their friends. In many cases, they're the first source of support these kids get."
Interested runners can meet Kee at Heartland Regional, beginning at 7 a.m., on June 26, behind the Marion hospital. For more information, email Kee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Supporters can also participate virtually, and support Rainbow Café, by signing up for The Southern Illinois PrideFest 5K at https://runsignup.com/Race/IL/AnyCityAnyState/SouthernIllinoisPrideFest5K.
Learn more about Rainbow Cafe LGBTQ Youth Center at https://www.rainbowcafe.org/.