2018-07-06 / Community

Final lap for road race volunteer

Special to the Post


Teri Collard Teri Collard This year’s 21st edition of the Kennebunk Free Library’s annual Road Race would be unrecognizable to those who ran in the first edition.

The number of participants has grown from about 75 to nearly 600; dozens of businesses and individuals now donate money, time, food and items for raffles and goodie bags; and the race course has changed to bring it closer to the library, allowing it to end with a big party on the library lawn.

The Road Race is now KFL’s biggest fundraiser, bringing in more than $30,000 per year.

Many dedicated people have worked hard to make the road race what it is, but nobody has worked harder than Teri Collard, retiring this year after 16 years of volunteering.

Collard has never been someone with a lot of free time on her hands. She has put in hundreds of hours each year volunteering for the road race. Additionally, for the past 16 or 17 years, she has helped organize the town of Kennebunk’s May Day Festival, originally as a fundraiser and later helping to promote the event. All of this is addition to her actual job as office manager for a management consulting firm in Portland, where she has worked since 1999.

As Collard puts it, “from the end of January until May, sleep is optional.”

Collard’s first involvement with the road race was as a runner in the third and fourth editions. Collard’s husband Paul Coughlin had joined library’s board of trustees when the couple was new to town as a way to meet people in the community.

By the fifth edition, Collard was recruited by the board to volunteer. That year, she was handed a stack of index cards with the names of potential sponsors and asked to make some calls. The second year, she got through her cards and asked for more to do. She may have gotten more than she bargained for – from there, she helped to reinvent the race. According to Collard, “history starts at the seventh edition.” She did away with the index cards and started keeping computer records. Other improvements soon followed.

Collard and then-library director Stephanie Limmer thought that it would be nice to have the library road race be near the library, so they moved the course. The October date for the road race often meant cold and rain-soaked runners. Relying on the sailing expertise of Larry Dwight, now library trustee emeritus, the committee determined that the second week of July had the most dependable weather. Since then, the weather has been generally good. “Thank you, Mother Nature and Larry,” Collard said.

Collard credits the community with the success of the road race. “This community is amazing,” she said. “Everyone is so willing to say yes.”

She says that people cannot always help every year or cannot help in the same way every year, but they are always willing to help. The road race raffle came about because there were businesses that wanted some way to participate, but could not be sponsors. Businesses and individuals alike pitch in.

Collard describes one year when the library ran out of safety pins for the runners’ bibs. Someone showed up with a roll of duct tape and participants cheerfully taped the bibs to their shirts.

Why is this the year to retire? After 16 years, Collard is ready for new challenges. She would like to put her skills to use in a new way, maybe with a nonprofit that serves the elderly. She says that what she will miss most about the road race are the stories. Everyone she approached about the road race had a story about why they love the library, remembering a book recommended by a librarian or their surprise that, far from fearing the effect of e-Readers, the library had them available to borrow.

Collard is excited about the future of the road race. She says that fresh sets of eyes could bring fun new things. Though she will no longer be working behind the scenes, she will still be lining up with the runners for the 22nd edition.

“Thank you, Teri for all of your hard work. And all of it was done with the utmost energy and nonstop smiles,” said Kennebunk Free Library Director Michelle Conners. “That’s what we’ll miss most at KFL.”

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