Q&A with Steve Kerr, founder of the Wheeler Mission's Drumstick Dash

CAMPUS CITIZEN:When did the Drumstick Dash start?
STEVE KERR:This will be our 12th year, so 2003 was our first year.
CC:Were you a part of Wheeler Mission when they began the Drumstick Dash?
KERR:Yes, I actually founded the Drumstick Dash.
CC:So what inspired you to do Drumstick Dash as a race instead of some other kind of event?
KERR:Well first of all, I am a runner. I run a lot of races. It’s one of my passions and I’ve been running for a long, long time. So it was really natural for me to bring my passion from outside of work into my passion for my work. It was very natural.
CC:How far do competitors come from for the Drumstick Dash?
KERR:Well there's two answers, last year we had 48 states and 2 foreign countries represented. I would like to think that our out of town competitors are here for the Drumstick Dash, but I know better, they're here because their families are here and they're running the Drumstick Dash because it's in Indy. I know we've had some but most people aren't driving from out of state to compete but 48 states and two countries is pretty nice.
CC:What’s the largest turn out you've had?
KERR:We had 17,706 registered participants last year. It is the biggest running event in the state of Indiana, second to the mini-marathon.
CC:Now the event is called the Drumstick Dash, but there are no drumsticks involved. I had envisioned something similar to the beer races where you have to chug a beer every mile, but instead you'd eat a drumstick. Why doesn't the Drumstick Dash involve more drumsticks?
KERR:You know, when we first started, we were close. We actually served turkey hot dogs. We've never gone with drumsticks for everybody, because while it's a fantastic idea, man they are expensive.
CC:Yeah, once you said 17 thousand participants, that seemed a little expensive?
KERR:*laughing* Yeah, it might be a little much.
CC:It seems like you guys have a lot of really strong sponsorship.
KERR:We have been very blessed to have some great sponsors. Starbucks actually provides free coffee for everyone. Another great sponsor is Blue Mile. It's a running store here in Indianapolis. Blue Mile has been with us from the beginning so they're another great local sponsor. Huntington Bank is probably our premier sponsor. They have been so generous with us over the years.
CC:So you have 17 thousand participants, how many people are needed to work the event to make it possible?
KERR:We need about a thousand people to work the event. It's almost entirely volunteers. Wheeler Mission has a very small staff but we get about 30 to 40 people of our own that show up and help out too.
CC:Have you ever had any issues getting volunteers?
KERR:What puts us in a good position is that Wheeler Mission has been in our community since 1893. So we're 121 years old and we've got a really solid base of good volunteers. Plus, it's on Thanksgiving day and a lot of people want to help on Thanksgiving day. So if they can't go serve a meal, they come help us at the Drumstick Dash.
CC:For this year's Drumstick Dash, what is the expectation for participants, volunteers, and funds raised?
KERR:Volunteers will stay the same at about a thousand. We know what it takes now to do course management, marshals, and packet pick up and things like that. We'd like to see about 18 thousand five hundred this year, that's what we're looking at. One thing we started a couple of years ago was a component called "Out of Town Dash Around". So for people that won't be in town for the dash, they can still register for about half the price of a normal entry and then we send them a shirt. We just ask that they send us a picture of them running. This year we've got a woman from Sweden and we've got a woman on a mercy ship who will be running on the ship to participate. We're very happy to have a way for people to participate that otherwise couldn't.
CC:Is there any sort of social media campaign in the works to help spread awareness of the Drumstick Dash?
KERR:We've got all of that. We've got our Facebook page. We've also got our twitter which is @dashindy. It is a huge component of ours. Social media has helped us get the word out a lot. Plus we also have a celebrity challenge for the dash. We have 20 to 25 local media celebrities compete in the race. We give them a five minute head start and they compete against each other for a little trophy that they get to hold onto for the year. And it's really great because all of the local media celebrities leverage their social media presence to help get the word out as well.
Interested in participating? Registration for the event is $28 and is all online. The deadline to signup is Monday.