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Tales of victory, agony of the feet

Sherwood man raises $10,000 for children's clothing program


by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Jason Zacher, left, and running partner Dane Rauschenberg head down Cornell Road during Zachers 188-mile run to raise money for Operation School Bell, a Beaverton-based childrens charity.Readers' note: This story was amended on Wednesday evening, June 25, to include the correct address for the Assistance League of Portland, at 4000 S.W. 117h Ave., just north of Canyon Road. The league's Operation School Bell serves kindergarten through high school students in Beaverton and Hillsboro school districts.

To most folks, pulling an "all-nighter" usually pertains to studying for an exam, wrapping up a project on a deadline or maybe just keeping the party rolling.

For Jason Zacher, it means running all night — literally — to benefit the less fortunate.

"The first night I ran six hours straight without stopping," he said on Monday while recuperating at his Sherwood residence. "Friday, I went eight hours with only two 10-minute breaks because the weather was so cold. The pain comes and goes in phases. When I felt good, I kept pushing it. I told my crew I didn't want to take any breaks."

After a meandering, 188-mile route of one foot in front of the other — with breaks only long enough to hydrate and suck down liquid nourishment — Zacher reached his goal of Eugene on Saturday, 48 hours and 55 minutes after setting out from Big Al's in Beaverton on Thursday at 2 p.m.

Zacher, 43, embarked on Jason's Epic Adventure, a solo offshoot of the annual Epic Oregon Relay race, to benefit Operation School Bell, a philanthropic program to provide new clothes for kindergarten-through-high school students from financially challenged families in the Beaverton and Hillsboro school districts. Launched in 1998, the operation is based at the Asistance League of Portland’s thrift store outlet at 4000 S.W. 117h Ave., just north of Canyon Road.

While pledge counts are still rolling in, Zacher believes the amount he raised is closer to $10,000 than the $7,500 he set as the original goal — an amount that would provide 100 eligible children with new clothing.

"I have six more checks to turn in myself," he said. "I expect the online donations to be pretty good. I had over 100 people join on my (Facebook) page, and a lot of them probably donated. I think it will be over $10,000 when we're done."

Zacher, who covered all his own expenses and got the fundraising rolling with a series of barbecues this spring, finished slightly after his 2 p.m. Saturday goal. He still arrived in time to embrace a hero's welcome from Epic Relay participants and a gaggle of other supporters.

"It was the greatest high ever to cross the finish line," he said. "There were people there from the Assistance League, family, a bunch of other teams cheering me. It obviously meant a lot to so many people."

Those gathered formed a tunnel with their arms for Zacher to pass under as his journey concluded.

"I put hands out and was high-fiving everyone," he said. "I was actually having hard time not falling over backwards. It was very emotional. My dad picked me right off the ground."

It may seem counterintuitive, but he was actually in no rush to plop down.

"I didn't sit down for probably 25 minutes. So many people were coming up to say 'Hi.' I knew when I was going down, I was going down. The first thing I did was change my shoes and socks."

Last year, Zacher’s destination was Lincoln City, which at 100 miles, is a virtual hop, skip and jump compared to his Eugene trek. He raised close to $5,000 to benefit the Salvation Army Beaverton Family Veterans Center on Farmington Road, and Angels Anonymous, a Lincoln City group that helps needy families pay expenses such as utility bills.

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Jason Zacher gives a thumbs up in the parking lot of Big Als in Beaverton to start to his journey to Eugene.He was met with unbridled enthusiasm when he approached Operation School Bell with his unique fundraising proposal.

Carol Bergseng, president of the Assistance League of Greater Portland, was thrilled when Jason finished in one piece while generating a substantial amount for the organization.

"The members of Assistance League of Greater Portland have great admiration for Jason and his accomplishment," she said. "It was thrilling to be a part of Jason’s Epic Adventure, and we are grateful that he selected Assistance League’s Operation School Bell program as his beneficiary. Many children will wear new clothes to school next year thanks to Jason’s efforts."

Zacher, who alternated between four pairs of running shoes on his Western Oregon odyssey, said he doesn't anticipate doing anything quite this grueling as a fundraiser from here on out.

"We all have our limits, and this is mine," he said, noting he starts back at his job on Monday. "I couldn't have gone 12 more miles. I'm 43 years old. I need to be taking care of my body."



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