Winning wildflowers

AAUW holds 35th annual fundraiser for education

RUN-FUNDED Since 1984, the AAUW has held its annual March Wildflower Run to raise money for local scholarships and grants. Photo: Elizabeth Mandel
The 2018 Wildflower Run, sponsored and staged by the Morgan Hill branch of the American Association of University Women, bears little resemblance to the first Wildflower Run 35 years ago.

That first race, in 1984, was open only to women and girls, 217 of whom participated, and started and finished at Watsonville and Santa Teresa roads. Finish times were recorded on Popsicle sticks. Enough money was raised for a $500 scholarship to Gavilan College.

In 1985, “There was a guy who didn’t like women running on the side of the road and threatened them with a gun,” said Elizabeth Mandel, who was race director from 2013-2017.

This year’s run, on Sunday, March 25, starts and ends at Live Oak High School, as it has since 1986, and offers run-walk distances of 5 and 10 kilometers, and 2-kilometer race on the Live Oak track for kids and adults. Runners are chip timed. Entries are capped at 1,200 participants of any gender. And race entry fees and individual and corporate sponsorships will generate $50,000 or more, much of which returns to the community in the form of scholarships for women and girls and community action grants.

Race organizers see the run as a community event. Every aspect of the run, but for the official timing and on-course security, is handled by AAUW volunteers; participation in the run in some form is a requirement of AAUW Morgan Hill membership.

“I’ve tried to make it more of a community event,” said Mandel, who has handed race director duties off to Pat Toombs this year. “If you’re competing with Carmel, they’ve got gorgeous scenery. So we tried to make it more of a community event, with a stroller event, free T-shirts for babies.”

This year’s course also will have live music by the AAUW Ukuladies and a taiko drum band, with organizers working on a mariachi band as well. And in honor of the 35th anniversary, members of the Morgan Hill Photography Club will photograph runners on the course and at the finish line, with free downloads available.

“You tweak a few things every year,” said Toombs, who started as goodie bag coordinator, but the race has been so successful for so many years that not much adjustment needs to happen.

The big goal is for community participation and a return to the community for its investment. Community action grants this year were given to Community Close, Learning and Loving Education Center, Gift of Reading, Discovery Counseling Center, South Valley Science Fair, Future Women’s Leadership Conference, the Yearbook Club at El Toro Health Science Academy. Proceeds also support Speech Trek and Tech Trek.

To enter the race, visit

Susan Rife
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About Susan Rife
Lover of arts & books; ukulele learner; therapeutic knitter; long-distance runner. Former Arts and Books Editor at Herald-Tribune.