Eau Claire, Wis. –Thirty four years ago Ron Buckli, a sports writer for the Leader-Telegram newspaper, decided it was time to bring a running race to the Chippewa Valley. Not just any race, however. He wanted the event to benefit the local Special Olympics program in which hundreds of individuals with intellectual disabilities are given the opportunity to play sports year-round.
At the time, very few charity races existed locally. Ron pitched the idea to then Special Olympics Wisconsin Area Director, Bob Lesniewski. Within a few minutes the run idea was given the green light to move forward.
With the last name Buckli, and a sports background, Ron was known around town as “Buckshot”. In his honor, and with his long-time employer on board as the title sponsor, the Leader-Telegram Buckshot Run was born.
Year number one was considered a big success with several dozen participants and a few thousand dollars raised. As the only run in town, Ron and Bob realized its potential to expand was tremendous.
Using his newspaper connections, and teaming up with the small local running club, Buckshot garnered statewide attention for the event. It wasn’t too far down the road when the Leader-Telegram Buckshot Run became known as one of the top ten races in Wisconsin, as dubbed by a state running magazine.
The two and five mile format of the timed run makes it a qualifying event for larger and longer races. The popularity of it has grown to include an average of 1,500 participants. It has also expanded in recent years to a two day event. For those who cannot attend the Saturday run, because of its connection to Labor Day weekend, they can choose to participate the Tuesday evening prior.
Today, the Leader-Telegram Buckshot Run celebrates an old fashioned run/walk with the entire focus on raising money for Special Olympics Wisconsin. It has become an event for the entire family and not just serious competitors. Many adults participate with their adult children and grandchildren. It’s not uncommon to see parents running while pushing a stroller.
Although the event has stood the test of time, many more runs, walks, mudder events, triathlons and bike races are competing with Buckshot’s event. In the last several years, the event has raised approximately $50,000 annually. Buckshot and event organizers hope to boost that average as the run ages and younger generations embrace the tradition. Since it all started 34 years ago the event has raised nearly $2 Million for Special Olympics Wisconsin.