Chicago community race focuses on ending gun violence

By Kevin Beese Staff Reporter

Activist the Rev. Michael Pfleger leads a group from St. Sabina Church at the 2017 Race Against Gun Violence. (SFP photo)

Hundreds of runners from various backgrounds will all toe the race starting line June 6 with one common cause: making the streets of Chicago safer.

Strides for Peace’s Race Against Gun Violence will take place June 6 in an effort to bring a cross-section of the city together and put attention on the violence that has cast the city in the national spotlight.

“There could be a family man from the Gold Coast standing right next to poor kids who took the bus to get there,” Mary Stonor Saunders, executive director of Strides for Peace, said of the varied race participants.

Saunders, who has more than 25 years’ public and private sector experience, knows Chicago’s staggering statistics.

She noted that last year, 36% of all the violent crime in the city took place in two of the city’s 25 police districts. She added that 34% of the city’s poorest residents live in those two districts as well.

This marks the sixth year for the Race Against Gun Violence and will showcase the work that various groups are doing to improve safety in the city. Those organizations will each have space at the event to showcase what they are doing and recruit new volunteers.

“Groups on the front line are so busy putting out fires, they are not always capable of letting people know about their cause,” Saunders said. “This is an opportunity for them to tell people what they are doing.”

Runners head out onto the Race Against Gun Violence course at last year’s event. This year’s race, again sponsored by Strides for Peace, will be held June 6 in Chicago’s Grant Park. (SFP photo)

Runners can opt for the 8-kilometer or 5-kilometer race. There is also a 2-mile walk and a Tots for Peace Sprint. Individuals can register for the race at

A vigil will be held prior to the race, remembering lives lost in the city to gun violence.

The race has grown annually since the first race saw 150 runners participate in the cause. Since 2016, the event has been held in Grant Park, increasing the visibility of the event and the organizations working to make the city’s streets safer.

“The intent is not political,” Saunders said of the event. “It is to take action against gun violence. Strides for Peace is apolitical. The event is for the victims of gun violence, to show our concern. It is for different people from across the city to come together and be involved for violence prevention.”

Saunders said that in order for Chicago’s streets to be safer more people have to be involved in the process. She said a community organizer, a police officer and a K-9 officer all have the same goal of stopping crime, but all have a different perspective on how best to make an impact.

“We have to bring them all together,” Saunders said.

More than 40 community organizations are expected to be involved in the event, showcasing what they do and seeking support financially and in manpower to continue their efforts.

Each crime-fighting organization is given 10 complimentary race registrations, allowing them to provide the race sign-ups to staff or supporters.

Participants include the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Peace Initiative teaching about the arts’ impact on violence and the Purpose Over Pain group, a parent advocacy organization, based at St. Sabina Church.

“It’s a celebration,” Saunders said of the event. “… We are all in solidarity, with the hope to end gun violence.”